Senate Panel Keeps ‘Secret Patriot Act’ Under Wraps
By Noah Shachtman
The secret Patriot Act is staying secret.
Two Senators have been warning for months that the government has a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act so broad that it amounts to an entirely different law — one that gives the feds massive domestic surveillance powers, and keeps the rest of us in the dark about the snooping.
“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”
The Senators tried to get the government to reveal some of the law’s contents, by forcing the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to produce a report outlining when this secret surveillance has gone overboard. Yesterday, the effort failed. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said no to the report by rejecting Wyden and Udall’s amendment to the FY2012 Intelligence Authorization Act.
In other words: we are all still in the dark about how the government is spying on us.
The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.