Double Secret Probation

Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-Guest Blogger

I guess I am a little naïve, but I was shocked to read that the Obama Administration has a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that is so large in its scope that some Senators consider it a whole new law!  “Two Senators have been warning for months that the government has a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act so broad that it amounts to an entirely different lawone that gives the feds massive domestic surveillance powers, and keeps the rest of us in the dark about the snooping.

“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret.”  The Senators tried to get the government to reveal some of the law’s contents, by forcing the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to produce a report outlining when this secret surveillance has gone overboard. Yesterday, the effort failed. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said no to the report by rejecting Wyden and Udall’s amendment to the FY2012 Intelligence Authorization Act.”  Crooks and Liars

If two Democratic Senators cannot convince a Democratically controlled Select Committee to accept their amendment, all hell has broken loose and pigs can now fly.  If you think about it, as long as any government agency can keep their interpretation of a law secret, it amounts to a completely independent legislature that does not answer to the American people.   Senator Wyden gave an interview in May of this year and he addressed this very subject.

“Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.  “We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

Kudos are in order for Senators Udall and Wyden for bringing this discussion into the open.  However it amazes me that Democrats in the Senate would allow an interpretation of a law be kept as a secret.  Especially when that double secret interpretation hides the true meaning of how the government is allowed to spy on us all. In these times of severe fracture within the Legislature, it seems that one of the few agreements that made it out of Washington is one that holds the American people in the dark and prevents the truth from reaching our ears. It is time for Congress to understand that Americans want to know how this Administration and any Administration is interpreting the law.  We are not asking them to disclose State Secrets,  just the definitions of how the public law is interpreted by the Obama Administration.

Happy Birthday Mr. President, but it is time to come clean on this double secret probation that you have us under!

Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-Guest Blogger

76 thoughts on “Double Secret Probation

  1. Rafflaw:

    when they passed it I wasnt worried about Bush abusing it but some future president using it. I was thinking of Hilary Clinton. But Obama will do.

    This was not unexpected in the least. People like Obama are all about the use of force to implement their world views.

    I would abolish that evil law if I could, it was made for abuse and the stupid politicians who voted for it should have been thrown out of office and then thrown in jail.

    Thank you for posting this article, it shows you are a man of integrity.

  2. Sounds as though the “Ghost of Nixon” has arisen from it’s grave, though with a much larger enemies list. And who will play the parts of Haldeman, Erlichman, Mitchell & Dean? Daley, Holder, Barnes and Reummler, aided and abetted by Reid and Pelosi?

  3. “However it amazes me that Democrats in the Senate would allow an interpretation of a law be kept as a secret.”

    I agree rafflaw. Regardless of our different party affiliations—up until lately—I considered Democrats to be the most transparent regarding governmental functions. Now, as others have suggested before me, there are no longer 2 distinct political parties in America.

  4. If it is “classified” how can it be enforced and how can any judge sign a blank warrant? This makes no sense…. How can you enforce what you don’t know to enforce?

    Raff, I suggest the labe be amended to reflect the following….”Am I nuts or does the executive office have them”

  5. Elaine,
    Great video clip! It is scary to see Sen. Wyden discuss his concerns. If he is worried and he has seen the “secret interpretation”, then we should all be worried.

  6. This sounds like the evil spawn of the “signing statement” run amok. So, now in lawless America we learn that “The Trial” (1925) by Franz Kafka is not a novel, but a prediction- and we have all become Joseph K.

    The good news is that we are no longer lawless. The bad news is that we are forbidden to know what the laws are.

    With this mindset and the use of computers, it’s only a matter of time until we drag a person into court and instantly create a law to fit the circumstances of each particular “crime”. Or, simplify the process by sending each defendant in front of Judge Nancy Grace.

  7. I always had the impression that the purpose of the Patriot Act, was simply to tell all Americans that we are terrorists (that’s right all of us), until we are told otherwise by dear leader..

  8. “The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”

    ~Oscar Wilde

  9. “What right did they have?”
    “Catch-22. […] Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing. […] What does it mean, Catch-22? What is Catch-22?”
    “Didn’t they show it to you?” Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. “Didn’t you even make them read it?”
    “They don’t have to show us Catch-22,” the old woman answered. “The law says they don’t have to.”
    “What law says they don’t have to?”

  10. I’m not worried. I have it on good authority that the secret interpretations are buttressed by solidly researched opinions by the firm of Addington & Yoo.

  11. @Anonymously Yours – “If it is “classified” how can it be enforced and how can any judge sign a blank warrant? This makes no sense…. How can you enforce what you don’t know to enforce?”

    “We’ll know what’s in it, when we pass it.” Oh wait, that’s DemObamacare. But since this is a secret law, there’s only one court that can handle it – yup, a “secret” court – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

  12. Not sure why you are surprised the dems “would allow an interpretation of a law be kept as a secret.” The democrats showed that even when they had the majority they were a bunch of spineless jellyfish. This debt ceiling fandango sealed the deal on the dems. I am ashamed of them.
    Carol Levy

  13. I can guarantee this … anon nurse will not be surprised … she has been warning us for months

    The CIA has us all exactly where they want us

  14. The Patriotic Act is what happens when policy is dictated by fear rather than reason. Fear causes people to trade freedom for security, and once power is conferred, it is not willingly relinquished. It is a mistake to rely on the perceived benevolence of a particular government because that government will change. It is a mistake to rely on a sunset clause in a statute because powerful interests quickly form to prevent the sun from ever setting by convincing us that our fears were justified in the first place and that the threats that induced our surrender are now even worse.

    I have given up the hope that we will elect reasonable people to govern. I would be willing to settle simply for people who are not afraid.

  15. Thankfully Obama is moving to ban war criminals from entering the U.S. Given that he’s refused to go after any torturers, sorry enhanced interrogators by “looking forward not back,” I guess his position is that we have enough here already. Something tells me that their definition of what constitutes a war crime for this purpose will be lot narrower than the definition Yoo used, and almost got denied tenure for. American exceptionalism worked out quite nicely for Yoo in this context, from “when the President does it, it’s not a crime” to “when an American does it, it’s not a war crime” so he need not fear being denied entry at the border by his fellow Constitutional scholar Obama. We’ve moved from Thomas Paine’s “In America, the law is King” to “In America the King’s lawyer is above the law” and, once again, the King is the Law. The fact that the King deems that we can’t be trusted to read his interpretation of the law demonstrates how mainstream this once radical theory has become.

  16. Various matters
    Salon, 8/3/2011

    (3) In other news from The Most Transparent Administration Ever, the Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Dianne Feintsein — refused to compel the Obama administration to disclose its interpretation of the Patriot Act and, specifically, the domestic surveillance powers it exercises under that law. Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall tried to compel disclosure of the administration’s interpretation of that law on the ground that it so severely departs from the public’s (and Congress’) understanding of that statute that it amounts, in Wyden’s words, to a “secret law, a secret Patriot Act.” As Obama’s own chosen (but never confirmed) OLC Chief Dawn Johnsen repetaedly argued, “secret laws” — where the Executive Branch refuses even to disclose how it is interpreting a Congressional statute — were one of the most anti-democratic abuses of the Bush years. Yet here it flourishes. The Intelligence Committee also refused to compel the Obama administration to estimate how many Americans have been subjected to electronic surveillance under the 2008 FISA Amendments Act supported by then-Senator Obama.

  17. I have not believed that we live in a democracy, a free society, in a long time and this is just another sign that we live in a totalitarian state. A poster above asked ‘how do you implement secret laws’? With secret courts. With secret police. When the country established a second track of courts and laws and language for ‘foreigner’s’ did anyone really think that would not migrate to the population in general and be rubbed-stamped by our Congress?

    Folks, the Soviet system didn’t fall, it just moved to greener pastures.

  18. Elaine,
    Thanks for the Greenwald link. It is good to see he agrees!
    I hope you are wrong, but I fear your concerns are not too far off reality!

  19. Naive? No! Get out! Leftists naive? Ha!

    The writer says “However it amazes me that Democrats in the Senate would allow an interpretation of a law be kept as a secret. ”

    Only a person unable to grasp virtue and wisdom would be amazed.

    All Democrats are evil and criminal types and the senate is run by these dirt bags and the kind of evil coming from the White House ought to be expected. Marxists are always evil.

    Obama is a dangerous, extremist, subversive. He is a despot and tyrant. He is a Marxist. And if people didn’t know this from day one of his presidency they are not as smart as they think nor as wise.

    They lack any semblance of genuine virtue. It’s likely they don’t know what it is. It was understood from the beginning that Obama was a usurper and over-thrower of our government. He fancies himself dictator for four years. He is a liar and a punk. He hates white Americans and is conducting a genocide against them.

    He is the ultimate communist bully and tin-horn third-world low-life thug.

    In other words, the perfect Democratic Party president.

  20. The Greenwald link is DEAD!!!

    Was Greenwald / Salon threatened?

    I guess we’ll never know!…..

    (See post above.)

  21. lottakatz

    America is not a democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic. A democracy is basically 2 wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner and our founders and framers did not want that sort of government for us but it is the one the Democratic Party supports.

    It is the left who have stripped the people of their rights and power by demonizing the 10th amendment (which guarantees our rights and limits the power of the federal government). The left has promoted the idea of centralized power (nationalism) by demanding that every aspect of our lives be directed from Washington–from what kind of light bulbs and toilets we MUST use to what kind of food and chemicals we shall be forced to take or abandon. This is totalitarian and the Democrats are four-square behind it.

    Friedrich Hayek long ago said that good people on the left would not like what the world looks like when their ideas are applied to government. And you folks here at this blog are exactly what he was talking about. The problem with you folks is that you forget that every fine wish, dream, and idea you have to make the world a perfect place (which is impossible) and that you want government to perform is accomplished at the end of a gun. You have a Disney World image of government given you by government schools and government media, but the real image of government is the 20th century: hundreds of millions slaughtered in wars and genocide and as many plunged into slavery and subjugation.

    I am not suggesting there be no government. But I am suggesting that it is more dangerous than the incandescent light bulb or flush toilets. Or the combustion engine. Or a lone gunman. Or a right-winger clinging to religion and a gun. Yet, the left is the biggest promoter of an all powerful government–the most brutal institution on earth.

    The hypocrisy is shocking.

    The only people moving genuinely forward on state sovereignty issues or issues of liberty and freedom are those “awful” right wingers. Yet on the pages of this blog the right wing is continually demonized. I will agree right wingers are stupid and go off half-cocked about everything, but at least they are headed in the correct direction.

    Left-wingers, for all their vaunted brains, are not even making an effort to preserve liberty. There is one half-hearted outpost: on the left, Glenn Greenwald. And for all his expertise, he gets a lot wrong.

    Outside of that leftists are devoted to training the public in envy, hate, and class warfare. They pump them up daily to join in civilization-wide criminal activity (Marxism/plunder). So I’ll take stupid right-wingers over evil left-wingers any day. At least a stupid person has a chance to get some smarts. Evil people are generally impossible to reach and a whole civilization bent on creating more of them is a dangerous one in peril of collapse and being overrun.

    So it would be nice if the brainy leftists in America would join in the fight for liberty and help the dumb right-wingers out with restoring the Constitution.

    The left wants the10th amendment for marijuana but it doesn’t want it for things they disagree with. The left needs to grow up and let the people of the various states decide things the left does not like. They are malcontents and cry babies who simply cannot stand it that people disagree with them. And they will destroy the10th amendment, even if it limits their own freedoms, on the outside chance it might give equal freedoms to people they disagree with. Talk about stupid.

    They need get out of the way and let the right wingers revive the 10th amendment, even if they do so stupidly. That way the left will get its wish for marijauna decriminalization and more (including their devoted obsessions with regard to sexual matters–deviance, perversion, and fetus slaughter, etc.)

    Fascism is here and now. Join the fight against it by upholding the 10th Amendment and the right of the states to nullify.

    Check out the results from the reluctant, tepid, and incomplete audit of the Federal Reserve and see what big crooks like Obama and congress need secrets. They lent 16 trillion dollars of your grand-kids money to rich bankers worldwide. Obama and congress has enslaved generations of Americans not even born yet to this debt. That’s is because he and they are not only stupid, but evil. And anyone voting for Obama in 2012 would be as well.

    Follow along and support the 10th Amendment Center (amendment dot com), the Campaign for Liberty (campaignforliberty dot org), Oath Keepers, and Sheriff Richard Mack (sheriffmack dot com)

  22. anon nurse 1, August 5, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Absolutely correct.

    It is going to take something huge to get the pendulum to change directions,
    if it isn’t too late.

  23. “It is going to take something huge to get the pendulum to change directions,
    if it isn’t too late.” -Bud


    My demented mother (said with love and affection) has a cheerful response for that:

    “Honey, it’s never too late.” (said with some emphasis on the word “never”) :-)

    But all kidding aside…, as you rightly say, it’s “going to take something huge” to turn this around…

  24. “But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens…” -from the article

    This goes way beyond the collection of information. That no one is willing to expose it is what I find most astounding.

  25. anon nurse,

    I would bet that it goes a little further than “dragnets” for massive information.
    It seems like it would be funnels for all information.

    Yesterday, I wrote that I believed that the Patriot Act makes us all terrorists.

    I meant that in the most serious of contexts. Our government is watching us, the taxpayers more closely than they are watching the terrorists. I can only conclude that the taxpayers/citizens are of a real and present threat to the government powers. Therefore we have to be watched… They must know when we bank, when we make a phone call, when we go on the internet, and yeah they are probably watching us in the washrooms of the nation.

    This Patriot Act is there to harm us the citizens not protect us…

  26. Bud,

    And it goes way beyond surveillance in the community…

    Law-abiding American citizens are definitely being harmed — no question about it. And it goes way beyond surveillance in the community…

    I don’t recognize this country anymore…

  27. Tootie, I find the state’s rights’s advocacy movement to be a logical but often times misguided approach to repudiating Washington politics. If one could make a rule that only more liberty from government intrusion could be implemented on the State level then I’d go for it. Instead what I have seen way too many states lately is a drive to turn workers into slaves (in that they have no right to negotiate with heir employer collectively), women into vessels for incubating fetus’ with no rights to determine their own health and voter suppression aimed at certain, historically abused and powerless distinguishable groups. That’s not a model for liberty in my opinion.

  28. anon nurse,

    Here’s paranoia for you … I was sitting on the veranda the other night talking to my daughter on the phone when I noticed a flying object darting here, there, here, there … it was twilight so I could only see the bulk of the thing without distinct definition and I remarked on it to my daughter calling it a giant dragonfly … maybe a drone. My daughter burst into laughter, “Mom, nobody needs to spy on you ’cause you tell the whole world everything you’re doing!” (smartass kids)

    This morning my drone reappeared in the full light of day … yep, it was a hummingbird.

  29. anon nurse and Bud, Our shot at a quick, regular and bloodless revolution comes every two years at the ballot box and I have always advocated that as the pinnacle of civilization, no more heads on sticks, no more storming the castles and keeps. The problem now (as I keep carping, endlessly) is that no election is credible anymore due to the means by which votes are recorded. Some Mississippi elections are still in chaos even as I type this:

    “Mississippi E-Vote Failure Update: ‘There Is No Election At This Point; Everyone Is Baffled’ ” 8-4-11

    “Voting Machine Failures In Mississippi Primary. DOJ Deploying Election Monitors In 11 Counties Today” 8-2-11

    How can any abuse of the citizenry be stopped when the most basic and fundamental tools for doing so are completely compromised? That the government not is openly thumbing its nose at citizens rights and has re-written the Constitution to allow the abuse tells me that a bogus voting mechanism is just part of the plan. You can’t do the one without the other.

  30. Blouise, LOL, once you set your feet on certain paths you might as well be open about it :-) Back in the Pleistocene when I did some marching there were always guys in suits taking pictures of the marchers and they weren’t news-guys. Some people would wear sunglasses or look away. I always looked right at them, smiled and gave them the finger. Good times.

    Those little drones are on their way, pretty soon they’ll hover en mass over every protest, demonstration and gathering of three or more people. Standard demonstrator equipment will include fly-swatters and small, hand-held EMP generators. It’s a brave new world :-)

  31. “I always looked right at them, smiled and gave them the finger. Good times.”(lottakatz) …

    My dad gave me a good camera in a sturdy case with a long strap and told me if someone was taking my picture, take theirs. Man, they did not like that. One cop almost chocked me to death trying to get my camera. The feds always tried to disguise themselves with sweatshirts or windbreakers bearing college logos. Their problem was that these pieces of clothing were always brand new complete with creases from packaging. They stuck out like a sore thumb. They really didn’t like having their picture taken but couldn’t break cover. Great fun snowing them.

    I see a lot of them now when marching in Columbus but I’m marching with the cops who take great delight in going up to these guys demanding to see their identification cause “threats” have been made against the marchers. That’s almost surreal for me.

  32. “I have not believed that we live in a democracy, a free society, in a long time and this is just another sign that we live in a totalitarian state. ”


    I wonder if anyone has lived in a free society larger than a tribe. Some have just come closer than others.

  33. Blouise,

    I had to post this… :-) Please forgive me…

    And, Blouise, it’s wasn’t paranoia, but rather “heightened awareness”… :-)

    I was hoping for a reason to post the following and now I can… :-)

    Blouise, lottakatz…bird lovers…,

    Speaking of hummingbirds, a friend sent me the following… and it’s very sweet… The music is, well…, you’ll see, but it grew on me…

  34. anon nurse,

    Yep … it looked just like that except no clicking sound

    The baby hummingbird was beautiful but Fish and Wildlife folk are probably coming after the kid.

  35. Bud,
    I have a couple of sites similar to the ones you gave bookmarked … my granddaughter loves to watch them. I find them very relaxing.

  36. Blouise,

    I used to really like the hummingbirds, but the way I figure it, they otta know the words by now, don’t ya think???

    Can you believe the amount of love or trust that little hummingbird must have for the fella that was feeding it??? Amazing. The bird must have felt something… God, only knows us humans don’t…very often.

  37. “I used to really like the hummingbirds, but the way I figure it, they otta know the words by now, don’t ya think???”(Bud)

    You are good! lol

  38. anon nurse,

    guy and hummingbird: Awwwwwww, that’s soooo cool, thank you;

    DARPA and ‘hummingbird’: Those bastards! Right into your yard, your house.

  39. Blouise, “My dad gave me a good camera in a sturdy case with a long strap and told me if someone was taking my picture, take theirs.”

    He sounds like he was cool and smart. Apples falling not far from the tree comes to mind.


    “I see a lot of them now when marching in Columbus but I’m marching with the cops who take great delight in going up to these guys demanding to see their identification cause “threats” have been made against the marchers. That’s almost surreal for me.”

    I bet it is. I think I would go into some cognitive dissonance-induced anxiety attack. :-) The few times my own union picketed though the police that showed up were actually empathetic and would say to the effect that they had their own bosses and fraternal organizations so they knew the score. It was interesting to interact with them in that way after interacting with them while advocating ‘other’ causes. it’s all about the community of interest. It was also a time when police showed up to a demonstration of just about any kind in short sleeved summer uniforms or regular uniform jackets or coats and not in military gear.

  40. Gyges: “Lotta, I wonder if anyone has lived in a free society larger than a tribe. Some have just come closer than others.”


    I think we are pretty simpatico in that feeling but I’m not sure if that’s how it would work in practice. In a small group everybody knows everybody else’s business. I wouldn’t mind picking my own tribe. I think that was the attraction of the counter culture advocacy of communal living.

  41. After Cheating Scandal, FBI Agents to Be Tested On Surveillance Tactics

    By David Kravets Email Author
    August 11, 2011

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation is planning to test agents about their understanding of the bureau’s surveillance guidelines, a move coming more than a year after the Justice Department discovered widespread cheating on the exam.

    Testing covering the recently amended Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide is to commence in the “coming weeks,” according to the Main Justice blog.

    The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded last year that a “significant number” of the 14,000 agents cheated on the required, open-book test given in 2009.

    “In our limited investigation, we found that a significant number of FBI employees engaged in some form of improper conduct or cheating on the DIOG exam, some in clear violation of FBI directives regarding the exam,” (.pdf) the inspector general’s report noted.

    Robert Mueller, the bureau’s director, said at the time that the agency would discipline agents who cheated. The inspector general concluded that the cheating included agents falsely answering a question on the test that they “had not consulted with others” while taking the exam.

    The FBI did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

    Joseph Persichini Jr. resigned his position in December 2009 as head of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. office. The Office of Professional Responsibility recommended he be disciplined after an investigation said he finished the test in 20 minutes and scored high.

    The Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide has been amended to allow agents to search police and commercial databases to find information about targets without agents first having to open a formal inquiry.

  42. Let’s hope that some cracks are starting to form… Wicked things going on this country of ours… They have to be exposed and stopped…

    ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Information from FBI on Nationwide System for Collecting “Suspicious Activity” Information

    August 25, 2011

    System May be Used to Track and Store Information about Innocent Americans with No Evidence of Wrongdoing


    Published on Thursday, August 25, 2011 by The Progressive

    NYPD and CIA Need to Be Investigated
    by Matthew Rothschild


    Glenn Greenwald
    Thursday, Sep 1, 2011

    Top CIA official: Obama “changed virtually nothing”
    By Glenn Greenwald


    PBS’s Frontline is airing an examination of “Top Secret America” on September 6. The show includes a rare and lengthy interview with 34-year-CIA-veteran John Rizzo, who is described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history.” PBS is promoting that interview this way:

    Here is one quote they include from Rizzo:

    With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration. (end excerpt)



    “Every year, the FBI sends about 50,000 “national security letters” (NSLs) to Internet service providers and others requesting information about their customers. Today we filed a lawsuit aiming to make sure that the government is following the rules when it uses this controversial tool.

    NSLs allow the FBI to collect information that’s extremely sensitive — e.g. the names of websites that a person has visited, or the email addresses with which she has corresponded — and to do so without judicial oversight. Unsurprisingly, government reports have detailed significant abuses.

    Several years ago, the ACLU challenged one particularly troubling aspect of NSLs: the government’s ability to silence recipients of NSLs using gag orders. By imposing these gag orders, the FBI cloaked the use (and abuse) of its NSL authority in near-blanket secrecy.”


    Posted at 03:04 PM ET, 09/21/2011
    Court allows challenge of U.S. surveillance law

    By Ellen Nakashima

    A group of plaintiffs hoping to mount a challenge to U.S. surveillance law secured a major victory Wednesday when a federal appeals court upheld their standing to sue the government.

    The Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ 6-6 decision allows a group of American lawyers, human rights activists and journalists to challenge the constitutionality of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended by Congress in 2008.

    The dissenting judges argued that the standing issue should now be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The ruling marks the first time any group of plaintiffs has gotten so far in the effort to challenge the constitutionality of the law as it was revised in 2008.

    “The government’s surveillance practices should not be immune from judicial review,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said. “And this decision ensures that they won’t be.”

    The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday’s ruling.

    (end of excerpt)

  46. Americans should be screaming about this… Rather, the silence is overwhelming…

    “Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act

    Published: March 16, 2012

    Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act
    Published: March 16, 2012

    WASHINGTON — For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public — or even others in Congress — knew about it.

    On Thursday, two of those senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained.

    The senators, who also said that Americans would be “stunned” to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do, made their remarks in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after a Justice Department official last month told a judge that disclosing anything about the program “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

    The Justice Department has argued that disclosing information about its interpretation of the Patriot Act could alert adversaries to how the government collects certain intelligence. It is seeking the dismissal of two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits — by The New York Times and by the American Civil Liberties Union — related to how the Patriot Act has been interpreted.

    The senators wrote that it was appropriate to keep specific operations secret. But, they said, the government in a democracy must act within publicly understood law so that voters “can ratify or reject decisions made on their behalf” — even if that “obligation to be transparent with the public” creates other challenges.

    “We would also note that in recent months we have grown increasingly skeptical about the actual value of the ‘intelligence collection operation,’ ” they added. “This has come as a surprise to us, as we were initially inclined to take the executive branch’s assertions about the importance of this ‘operation’ at face value.”

    The dispute centers on what the government thinks it is allowed to do under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which agents may obtain a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing them to get access to any “tangible things” — like business records — that are deemed “relevant” to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

    There appears to be both an ordinary use for Section 215 orders — akin to using a grand jury subpoena to get specific information in a traditional criminal investigation — and a separate, classified intelligence collection activity that also relies upon them.

    The interpretation of Section 215 that authorizes this secret surveillance operation is apparently not obvious from a plain text reading of the provision, and was developed through a series of classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    The letter from Mr. Wyden and Mr. Udall also complained that while the Obama administration told Congress in August 2009 that it would establish “a regular process for reviewing, redacting and releasing significant opinions” of the court, since then “not a single redacted opinion has been released.”

  47. We love to tell ourselves that there is a robust freedoms and a thriving free political press in the U.S. because you’re allowed to have an MSNBC show or blog in order to proclaim every day how awesome and magnanimous the President of the United States is and how terrible his GOP political adversaries are — cutting and edgy! — or to go on Fox News and do the opposite. But people who are engaged in actual dissent, outside the tiny and narrow permissible boundaries of pom-pom waving for one of the two political parties — those who are focused on the truly significant acts which the government and its owners are doing in secret — are subjected to this type of intimidation, threats, surveillance, and climate of fear, all without a whiff of illegal conduct (as even The New York Times‘ most celebrated investigative reporter, James Risen, will tell you). -Glenn Greenwald

    Saturday, Apr 21, 2012 8:03 AM Eastern Daylight Time\

    Surveillance State evils

    By Glenn Greenwald

    “Whether a country is actually free is determined not by how well-rewarded its convention-affirming media elites are and how ignored its passive citizens are but by how it treats its dissidents, those posing authentic challenges to what the government does.

    Note, too, how this weapon has been not just maintained, but — as Binney said — aggressively expanded under President Obama. Obama’s unprecedented war on whistleblowing has been, in large part, designed to shield from the American public any knowledge of just how invasive this Surveillance State has become.

    Two Democratic Senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — have spent two full years warning that the Obama administration is “interpreting” its spying powers under the Patriot Act in ways so “twisted” and broad that it would shock the American public if it learned of what was being done, and have even been accusing the DOJ and Attorney General Holder of actively misleading the public in material ways about its spying powers.” (end of excerpt)


    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance

    “In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA’s massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower. Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches and other personal data.

    Binney served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.” Today marks the first time Binney has spoken on national television about NSA surveillance.

    William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.””

  49. Greenwald’s article has been updated:

    “Wyden and Udall have failed to tell the public about this illegal spying (even though they could do so on the Senate floor and be immune from prosecution) because they apparently fear losing their precious seat on the Intelligence Committee, but what’s the point of having a seat on the Intelligence Committee if you render yourself completely impotent even when you learn of systematic surveillance lawbreaking?”

    Wyden and Udall need to tell the truth to the American public. They know, they could tell… and yet they remain silent.




    Sens. Wyden and Udall Weigh in on ACLU Patriot Act FOIA Case

    Posted by Jameel Jaffer, Center for Democracy at 6:09pm

    “Contrary to core principles of American democracy.” That’s how two U.S. senators describe the Justice Department’s refusal to release a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act.

    Last year, we filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records about the government’s use and interpretation of one of the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions: Section 215. Some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had suggested that the provision was being abused. “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act,” Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said, “they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

    Our FOIA request was an effort to uncover more information about the way that the Justice Department has interpreted the statute, and the way that the FBI is using it. Because the Justice Department hasn’t produced any records in response to our request, we filed suit in October, 10 years to the day after President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law. We’ll file our opening brief in that case later this month.

    This afternoon, Sen. Udall and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to the attorney general commenting on our lawsuit and on a related but narrower FOIA suit filed by The New York Times. The letter is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s a particularly crucial passage:

    It is a matter of public record that section 215, which is a public statute, has been the subject of secret legal interpretations. The existence of these interpretations, which are contained in classified opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or “FISA Court”) has been acknowledged on multiple occasions by the Justice Department and other executive branch officials.

    We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.

    As we have said before, we believe that it is entirely legitimate for government agencies to keep certain information secret. Americans acknowledge that their government can better protect national security if it is sometimes allowed to operate in secrecy and as such, they do not expect the Obama Administration to publish every detail about how intelligence is collected any more than early Americans expected George Washington to tell them his plans for observing troop movements at Yorktown. However, in a democratic society — in which the government derives its power from the consent of the people — citizens rightly expect that their government will not arbitrarily keep information from them. Americans expect their government to operate within the boundaries of publicly-understood law, and as voters they have a need and a right to know how the law is being interpreted, so that they can ratify or reject decisions made on their behalf. To put it another way, Americans know that their government will sometimes conduct secret operations, but they don’t think that government officials should be writing secret law.

    This isn’t the first time the ACLU has sought information about the government’s use of this provision. Back in 2002, we filed a FOIA suit that eventually resulted in the release of a few hundred documents — including this, this, and this. But now the FBI is using Section 215 much more aggressively. It’s using it more often. And statements by Obama administration officials raise the distinct possibility that the government is using the provision to support entire surveillance programs.

    As Wyden and Udall say, the secrecy surrounding the government’s use of new surveillance powers is unwarranted and fundamentally antidemocratic. The public should know, at least in general terms, how the government interprets its surveillance authority and how that authority is being used. (end of ACLU posting)

  51. Didn’t some congressman place on the record classified Vietnam records……and they tried to make a stink about that then….


    You are a vital force for information….Thank you….

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