DOJ Says Public Has No Right To Know About The Secret Laws The Feds Use To Spy On Us (Techdirt)
Tuesday July 9th, 2013
So, we were just discussing the insanity of the FISA court (FISC) basically acting as a shadow Supreme Court, making broad rulings in total secrecy that have created a secret body of law that the public is not allowed to know about. Given increasing revelations about these shadow laws, the ACLU and other public interest groups are trying, yet again, to get access to some of these key rulings. All along, they've been extremely careful to note that they're not asking FISC to reveal specific foreign intelligence issues, operations or targets: merely the parts of the rulings that identify what the law is -- i.e., how it's being interpreted by the courts. Because that seems rather fundamental to a functioning democracy.
However, as you might expect, the Justice Department has now hit back with a new filing that says, flat out, the public has no right to know what the secret court is ruling on and how it's codifying secret laws. The argument is, basically, that because FISC rulings have almost always been secret, then it's perfectly reasonable that they're secret. In other words, it's perfectly legal for secret laws to remain secret, because they're secret. Later it also argues that actually revealing the law would be (oooooooh, scary!) dangerous.
Let's make this simple: yes, revealing specific details of various surveillance efforts and targets could create security issues, no doubt. But revealing how a United States' law is interpreted can never by itself create a national security issue. And that's all that's being asked of here. The DOJ is being incredibly dishonest and disingenuous in conflating the two issues, arguing that because the FISC deals with intelligence operations, that its rulings on the interpretation of the law must also be secret. But that's wrong. You can reveal the basic interpretation of the law without revealing the specific intelligence efforts and methods. The only reason to keep the interpretation of the law a secret is because it'll be a huge embarrassment and show widespread abuse.
152378942 US Opposes ACLU at FISA Court (PDF)