Daily Archives: March 31st, 2012

Secret Laws and Hedges vs. Obama

To grasp the implications of the secret laws and overreach we’re dealing with in Hedges vs. Obama, start here:

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)
By James Bamford
March 15, 2012

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

Secret Laws

“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” ~ Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, Senate Intelligence Committee

The refusal of government to define ill-defined terms in public law constitutes secret interpretations of the law – secret laws. The ACLU:

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. (3/15/2012)


Regarding that ACLU lawsuit and another filed by the New York Times, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall stated in a recent letter to Eric Holder, the chief attorney for an administration that promised us it would be the “most open and transparent in history”:

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.


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.”


Yesterday, Naomi Wolf posted her notes from the first of the NDAA hearings in the Hedges vs. Obama case. The transcript excerpts speak for themselves.

When our judges, journalists, peaceful protesters and fiction writers are subject to the questionable doublespeak from a lawyer representing our president in a dire case involving our individual liberty, the people’s job as the guardians of freedom requires attention. This was not easy to read:

NDAA hearing notes ~ Naomi Wolf
March 30, 2012

To me, secret laws are like drawing a line in the sand in front of a walking blind man. The expectation can only be that he will cross the line.