Despite the Obama administration's proclaimed commitment to transparency, the administration's approach to national security policy continues to send mix signals.
According to two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, under Obama, we have a secret court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) issuing a secret interpretation of a law (Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act) that gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the power to collect information on individuals in secret.
Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, known as the "business records" provision, allows law enforcement to obtain "any tangible thing" that is relevant to an international terrorism or espionage investigation. Section 215 allows collection of information on individuals who are not target of a criminal investigation or even suspected of criminal activity. And, Section 215 orders come with a gag order prohibiting the recipient – which could be your library, your bank, your credit card company, or any other private entity – from disclosing receipt of the order.
However, this is just what we know from reading the statute. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) commendably sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticizing the Justice Department's use of a secret interpretation of surveillance powers, and accusing the Justice Department of misleading the public:
. . . we have been concerned for some time that the U.S. government is relying on secret interpretations of surveillance authorities that - in our judgment - differ significantly from the public's understanding of what is permitted under U.S. law. . . . Justice Department officials have - on a number of occasions - made what we believe are misleading statements pertaining the government's interpretation of surveillance law.
- Government Accessing Journalists' Phone Records: Happened to Me/Newsweek in 2003
- Inspector General Report Vindicates GAP Clients From National Security Agency
- Newly-Released Inspector General Report Vindicates Drake and Other NSA Whistleblowers
- NSA Whistleblowers on 60 Minutes: 9/11 Could Have Been Prevented
- Increasing Intelligence Spending While Punishing Whistleblowers Who Report Waste
- Democracy Now!: What the Prosecution of NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake is Really About
- Widespread NSA Wrongdoing Detailed in New Yorker Article Featuring GAP Client Thomas Drake
- The New Yorker's Damning Dissection of "Leak" Prosecution of Thomas Drake
- Govt. Tries to Create New Secrecy Designation: UNCLASSIFIED