Perhaps the most perverse aspect of the PATRIOT Act is the federal government’s refusal to reveal how it interprets and puts into practice the (vague and far-reaching) law. Techdirt reports that the New York Times is stepping up to the plate and challenging Washington:
Reporter Charlie Savage of the New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out the federal government’s interpretation of its own law…and had it refused. According to the federal government, its own interpretation of the law is classified. What sort of democracy are we living in when the government can refuse to even say how it’s interpreting its own law? That’s not democracy at all.
We’ve been covering for a while now how Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have been very concerned over the secret interpretation the feds have of one piece of the PATRIOT Act. They’ve been trying to pressure the government into publicly explaining how they interpret the law, because they believe that it directly contrasts how most of the public (and many elected officials) believe the feds are interpreting the law. While the two Senators continue to put pressure on the feds and to hint at the feds’ interpretation, just the fact that the government won’t even explain its own interpretation of the law seems ridiculous.
Julian Sanchez points us to the news that Savage and the Times have now sued the federal government for not revealing its interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, pointing out that if parts of the interpretation contain classified material, the Justice Department should black that out and reveal the rest, but simply refusing to reveal the interpretation entirely is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. You can bet that the feds will do everything they can to get out of this lawsuit, just as they did with the various lawsuits concerning warrantless wiretapping. Here’s hoping the court systems don’t let them. No matter what you think of this administration (or the last one) and how it’s handling the threat of terrorism, I’m curious how anyone can make the argument that the US government should not reveal how it interprets the very laws under which it’s required to operate.
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