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Senate intel committee blocks report on "secret law"
Secrecy News Blog:



The Senate Intelligence Committee rejected an amendment that would have required the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to confront the problem of "secret law," by which government agencies rely on legal authorities that are unknown or misunderstood by the public.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall, was rejected on a voice vote, according to the new Committee report on the FY2012 Intelligence Authorization Act.

"We remain very concerned that the U.S. government's official interpretation of the Patriot Act is inconsistent with the public's understanding of the law," Senators Wyden and Udall wrote. "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 included dissenting remarks, along with the text of their rejected amendment, in the Committee report.

Sen. Wyden and Sen. Udall also offered another amendment that would have required the Justice Department Inspector General to estimate the number of Americans who have had the contents of their communications reviewed in violation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That amendment too was rejected, by a vote of 7-8. All Committee Republicans, plus Democrat Bill Nelson (D-FL), opposed the amendment.

"It is a matter of public record that there have been incidents in which intelligence agencies have failed to comply with the FISA Amendments Act, and that certain types of compliance violations have continued to recur," Senators Wyden and Udall wrote. "We believe it is particularly important to gain an understanding of how many Americans may have had their communications reviewed as a result of these violations."

"We understand that some of our colleagues are concerned that our amendment did not explicitly state that the final report of the Inspector General's investigation should be classified. We respectfully disagree that this is necessary," they said. "In any event, we are confident that the executive branch will seek to classify any information that it believes needs to be secret, and that it is not necessary for Congress to direct that particular reports be classified."

The Senate Intelligence Committee report was silent on the status of the Committee's investigation of the CIA's post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, which has been underway for over two years.

The Obama Administration is invoking the state secrets privilege to seek partial dismissal of a lawsuit alleging unlawful surveillance of Southern California mosques, reported Josh Gerstein in Politico on August 1.


J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has filed a complaint with the current ISOO director alleging that the National Security Agency wrongly classified a document, which was then used as a basis for the Espionage Act indictment of Thomas Drake, the New York Times reported. See "Complaint Seeks Punishment for Classification of Documents" by Scott Shane, August 2.

"If you're talking about throwing someone in jail for years, there absolutely has to be responsibility for decisions about what gets classified," Mr. Leonard told the Times.

Mr. Leonard had been a volunteer expert witness for the defense in the recently concluded prosecution of Thomas Drake, the former NSA official. The document that is the subject of his complaint is no longer classified, but it is still subject to a protective order. Mr. Leonard requested and received permission from the court to pursue his complaint last Friday.

"A surprising war on leaks under Obama," an op-ed by Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 1.


The Faster FOIA Act, a modest bit of legislation to establish a commission "to examine the root causes of FOIA delays," was introduced and passed in the Senate yesterday.

It was previously passed in May, but the resulting bill was amended by the House in order to serve as a vehicle for its debt ceiling maneuver, stripping out the FOIA-related content. To reactivate the original Faster FOIA Act bill, it needed to be reintroduced. The new bill, S. 1466, passed on a voice vote on August 1, and will move once again to the house.

The Department of Defense has updated its Freedom of Information Act directive (pdf). In mostly new language added last week, the directive said "It is DoD policy to promote transparency and accountability by adopting a presumption in favor of disclosure in all decisions involving the FOIA; responding promptly to requests in a spirit of cooperation; and by taking affirmative steps to make the maximum amount of information available to the public, consistent with the DoD responsibility to protect national security and other sensitive DoD information."

Also new is a report from the Congressional Research Service on "Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background and Policy Options for the 112th Congress" (pdf), July 26, 2011.

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:
The Secret Patriot Act Is Staying Secret

August 3rd, 2011
Via: Wired:

The secret Patriot Act is staying secret.

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 law one 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.

In other words: we are all still in the dark about how the government is spying on us.

The Senators won't say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called "business-records provision" is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any "tangible things" it deems relevant to a security investigation.

Posted in COINTELPRO, Dictatorship, Surveillance
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