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Feds Agree To Release Redacted Interpretation Of PATRIOT Act That A Month Ago It Said Could Not Be Revealed

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Mike Masnick
December 23, 2013

A month ago, we wrote about how the DOJ had told the FISA Court (FISC) that even though the court had said that its own rulings, which secretly interpreted the PATRIOT Act to allow for the bulk collection of certain information under Section 215 of the act, should be declassified in the wake of all the Snowden revelations, the DOJ had determined that it didn’t want to release the ruling. Let’s repeat the details here: (1) FISA Court issues secret ruling that totally reinterprets Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act in a manner that appears to be quite different than any plain language reading. (2) Snowden leaks a bunch of documents that reveal the existence of certain bulk data collection which has everyone up in arms. (3) FISA Court itself says that more information is a good thing for debate, and that it would like to release the ruling in question, asking the DOJ to do some redactions as necessary. (4) The DOJ says, well, given the choice, we’d just as soon redact the whole damn thing. (5) The FISA Court says, “Come again? You need to explain that some more.”

Then, late on Friday, when the DOJ had to give its more detailed explanations, it suddenly reversed its position. It now says that it will drop its objection to the ruling being published, though there will be redactions. The DOJ claims that its initial reaction wasn’t just to hide the full ruling, but that there’s an ongoing investigation that it involves:

In its latest filing, the Justice Department explained the reason for its initial reluctance to have the opinion published: It relates to the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation. Some information in the opinion could tip off the subject or his associates, the Justice Department said.

“However, upon review and as a discretionary matter,” the government said, it decided to drop its objection to the court publishing parts of the opinion, as long as they’re not classified and don’t jeopardize the investigation.

Of course, this suggests that their initial response, trying to block the release of any part of the decision was the typical kneejerk reaction of government officials to “well, keep this secret.”

This article was posted: Monday, December 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

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