Obama Administration’s “Secret Law” to Spy on Americans
by Tom Burghardt
July 31, 2011
During last spring’s run-up to the reauthorization of three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) charged that the administration and the FBI was relying on a “secret” interpretation of law to vacuum-up exabytes of data, including cell phone location records and internet data mining that target Americans.
In March, a written statement to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security by Justice Department official Todd Hinnen confirmed that the administration had used Section 215, the so-called “business records” section of the Act “to obtain driver’s license records, hotel records, car rental records, apartment leasing records, credit card records, and the like.”
Further confirmation of Wyden’s charges came from an unlikely source: a White House nominee for a top counterterrorism position.
Last week Wired reported that Matthew Olsen, the administration’s pick to head the National Counterterrorism Center “acknowledged that ‘some of the pleadings and opinions related to the Patriot Act’ to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approves snooping warrants ‘are classified’.”
If confirmed, Olsen will replace Michael E. Leiter, the Bushist embed who told the Senate last year during hearings into 2009’s aborted plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day: “I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another.”
What those reasons are for wanting a terrorist to board a packed airliner were not spelled out to Senate nor were they explored by corporate media. This raises an inevitable question: what else is the administration concealing from the American people?
White House Stonewall
Back in May, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department “demanding the release of a secret legal memo used to justify FBI access to Americans’ telephone records without any legal process or oversight.”
So far, the administration has refused to release the memos.