Mere hours after President Barack Obama said Friday morning that he welcomes a debate on the federal government’s highly classified surveillance programs, his Department of Justice tried to squash the release of a secret court opinion concerning surveillance law.
A 2011 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling found the U.S. government had unconstitutionally overreached in its use of a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The National Security Agency uses the same section to justify its PRISM online data collection program. But that court opinion must remain secret, the Justice Department says, to avoid being ‘misleading to the public.’….
In a rare public filing in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Justice Department today urged continued secrecy for a 2011 FISC opinion that found the National Security Agency’s surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional. Significantly, the surveillance at issue was carried out under the same controversial legal authority that underlies the NSA’s recently-revealed PRISM program.
EFF filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2012, seeking disclosure of the FISC ruling. Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall revealed the existence of the opinion, which found that collection activities under FISA Section 702 ‘circumvented the spirit of the law’ and violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. But, at the time, the Senators were not permitted to discuss the details publicly. Section 702 has taken on new importance this week, as it appears to form the basis for the extensive PRISM surveillance program reported recently in the Guardian and the Washington Post.
The government has seeked to block EFF’s FOIA suit by arguing that only the FISC, itself, can release the opinion. In an effort to remove that roadblock, EFF filed a motion with the FISC on April 22 seeking the surveillance court’s consent to disclosure, should the document be found to be otherwise subject to release under FOIA. In its response filed with the FISC today, the government offers a circular argument, asserting that only the Executive Branch can de-classify the opinion, but that it is somehow prohibited by the FISC rules from doing so.
The government’s argument is guaranteed to make heads spin. DOJ earlier argued that it lacks discretion to release the FISC opinion without the FISC’s consent, but DOJ now argues that if the FISC were to agree with EFF, ‘the consequence would be that the Government could release the opinion or any portion of it in its discretion.’ But FISC material is classified solely because the Executive Branch demands that it be, so release of the opinion has always been a matter of Executive discretion….
Another day, another scandal, another cover up by the Obama administration.
NSA, secret police, another branch of Obama’s private army, a secret court, granting permission with a secret court order to a federal agency that does not exist to secrete my private information and trample upon my fourth amendment rights.
Adding insult to injury that non-existent federal agency purports to act in the nation’s best interest by deciding what is and what is not in the best interest of the people all the while keeping us in the dark and expecting us to willingly part with our privacy.
No thanks my freedom, my privacy and that of my family, my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren is primarily. No tradeoffs.
I love my country but I despise my government.
The threat is imminent and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This despot is a threat to the US Constitution must be impeached, tried and thrown into prison for countless crimes against the people and country.
See other EFF documents on the Obama administration spying on Americans and cover up below.