Our Open Surveillance ‘Debate’: DOJ Wants to Block Release of Secret Court Opinion

Trust us! You won't understand it anyway!DOJ logoMany tech-savvy, privacy-minded experts knew (as Brian Doherty noted earlier) that the National Security Agency was engaged in significant amounts of surveillance, even if the full extent was not clear (or not validated to the degree that it has just become).

Because of the efforts of President Barack Obama's Administration to quash any release of even a smidgen of information about the government’s surveillance program, his comment today that he looked forward to a “debate” on the issue was met with skepticism. Then, hours later, the Department of Justice responded to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation trying to stop the release of a secret court opinion connected to the very surveillance program about which Obama claimed to want to debate. Via the Huffington Post:

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."

The DOJ was responding to a lawsuit filed last year by the Electronic Frontier Foundation seeking the release of a 2011 court opinion that found the government had violated the Constitution and circumvented FISA, the law that is supposed to protect Americans from surveillance aimed at foreigners.

The DOJ had been given a Friday deadline to submit the filing, well before the revelation of the PRISM program's existence in The Washington Post and The Guardian on Thursday.

The DOJ isn’t even arguing that the opinion must be sealed to protect national security. It’s just that us silly citizens won’t understand it.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The DOJ isn’t even arguing that the opinion must be sealed to protect national security. It’s just that us silly citizens won’t understand it.

    The decision was based on something written over a hundred years ago, after all.

  • ||

    They're not even trying to pretend there is any other reason for this than they want it to spy on everyone. It's absurd. Maybe this level of arrogance, in this way, will finally shock enough people.

  • Almanian!||

    Maybe this level of arrogance, in this way, will finally shock enough people.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Ohhhhh....I wish.

    We are DOOMED.

  • SweatingGin||

    Maybe shock enough into universal encryption? And not relying on root certs, too, I guess.

    If they can't decrypt it, and there's enough encrypted that it can't be circumstantialy tied, then that's fine, too.

  • crashland||

    We just need everybody to toss random shit like:

    Yo Mohammad, so Friday is the night we make our move. I hope you are ready for your virgins, cause I need me some bad. Praise Allah!

    to their email sigs... The way to deal with data mining is to fuck with the data and make it useless.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    EMACS has/had (I haven't used it in a while) package which added random subsets of various keywords to email for the very purpose of forcing the spooks to waste time actually opening and reviewing harmless documents.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    WRONG. They love a strong, assertive Democrat in the White House. You think Clinton got NOW support because he didn't rape women? No, sir. He was the cocky bad boy they love.

    Bush was arrogant.

  • Sevo||

    Obozo could have 'debated' this at any time; it seems the timing of that debate is driven by the fact that he's been busted.
    So now, there is no debate. Obozo wishes to use a supposed debate to float excuses until one sticks enough for the NYT to front-page it.

  • Agammamon||

    "Then, hours later, the Department of Justice responded to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation trying to stop the release of a secret court opinion connected to the very surveillance program about which Obama claimed to want to debate."

    Look, he didn't know anything about that. He was just as surprised to read about it in the news as you were AND he *promises* to fix it. Just trust him.

  • Sevo||

    And, he'll DEBATE it with, well, whatever Obozobot he can find to feed the right questions.
    What a guy!

  • anon||

    For being such a "smart guy," there's a terrifying amount of shit he would like you to believe he's unaware of.

  • scareduck||

    SHENANIGANS! I CALL SHENANIGANS.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Always gotta be right, with your little quips! We get it, man. You're fuckin' edgy and cool. Yeah! You're the coolest fuckin' guy at Shenaniganz! WHOOO! That's like being the smartest kid with Down syndrome

  • PapayaSF||

    Slightly off-topic: Now that we know the IRS was corruptly serving the political ends of the Obama administration by going after his political opponents, how do we know the NSA wasn't doing the same thing? Records of the Romney campaign's electronic communications would be very helpful to the Obama campaign, would they not? And didn't the Romney campaign have a massive computer failure on election day? What a coincidence! Such a thing would probably be child's play for the NSA....

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Just assume the government is corrupt as hell, and your surprise will be lessened when you find out they are even worse.

    Seriously. Government is not to be trusted in the slightest. Incompetence or malice doesn't matter.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Trust US!

    Just US!

    Don't bust US!

    Just trust US!

  • WomSom||

    Wow, when are the people going to stand up and say ENOUGH!

    www.AnonStuff.tk

  • AlmightyJB||

    When it's too late anon-bot

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Not that I ever believed that:

    1) My vote matters
    2) We live in a truly representative democracy
    3) A representative democracy is a good thing

    but doesn't this whole thing blow civics lessons out of the water? How can anyone cast an informed vote when the public doesn't even know wtf is going on?

  • anon||

    My only question is how Obama turns this into a non-wasted crisis. Probably more scared of that than anything. It's going to be like 9/11 ... times a thousand.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement