(Updated March 17 at 2 pm MT)
The full text of the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) concerning our government’s interpretation and application of the Patriot Act speaks more eloquently for itself than any report or summary of its contents. The senators are members of the Senate intelligence committee and as such have access to more high-level secret information than anyone else in Congress. Their concern about the U.S. government’s questionable interpretation of the Patriot Act as justification for certain covert activities is chilling.
For more on this story see yesterday’s “Patriot Act under fire from senators & FOI lawsuits.”
For details on how the government is using the Patriot Act, particularly Section 215, see EFF’s “Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency.” An excerpt:
Section 215 allows the government to apply and obtain orders from a secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Those secret, classified orders can require businesses, like ISPs or phone companies, to turn over “any tangible thing” relevant to a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation. According to the Washington Post, 80% of those orders are for internet records. A 215 Order also gags the recipient — that is, the order specifically prohibits the company from ever disclosing the fact that the order was received.
And that’s just what the text of Section 215 says. Elected officials briefed on the way the government has interpreted and used the section claim that there are really two Section 215’s: one consistent with the language of the statute, and one that has stretched and expanded the section’s plain meaning through secret court opinions and secret DOJ legal interpretations. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have repeatedly warned about the government’s secret use of 215 and have publicly called on the DOJ and the secret court to make those interpretations public.
- Patriot Act under fire from senators & FOI lawsuits (piedtype.com)
- Senators Attack Government’s Use of Patriot Act (the2012scenario.com)
- What Wouldn’t You Believe About the Patriot Act? (reason.com)
- Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Democratic Senators Warn About Patriot Act (alan.com)
- Administration confirms it has secret interpretation of Patriot Act provision (dailykos.com)
- Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency (eff.org)
- What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You – Will It? (buelahman.wordpress.com)