The Electronic Frontiers Foundation has won its four year legal battle to secure the release of a secret legal interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot act. The secret Memo, authored by the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, the same Office of Legal Counsel that authored the infamous Torture Memos, will now be released to the public. The linchpin of the case lay in the memo’s effect on the expectation of non-disclose in regards to census data and law enforcement agencies.
The victory is part of larger ongoing battle to access the hundreds of legal opinions that have allowed section 215 of the act to become a catch all excuse to mass monitor and collect digital and telecommunication’s data. In a legal system where laws are established, not by their public disclosure, but by the secret interpretations that define their use, suing for access to those interpretations has become the only way to have a public discussion about them. President Obama cited the need for this “reflection” when he released the torture Memos. EFF attorney Mark Rumold echoed that sentiment when he reacted to the current ruling:
We’re well overdue to have a fully informed, public debate about this provision of law, and hopefully the disclosure of this opinion will help move the public debate forward.
This discussion couldn’t be coming at a more opportune time. The White house is set to issue it’s own report on strengthening privacy from NSA spying as a renewed version of the USA freedom act (Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act.) is set to make it through the republican controlled house and senate where it will enjoy plenty of support.
Meanwhile, the president’s own Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has recommended that the president could end the spying program without approval from congress or the senate:
It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement. -PCLOB
They acknowledged this in a report issued over a year ago, and yet it seems that while the white house has accepted the recommendations of the board in spirit, it has not actually implemented any of them.
Do you think the mass telecommunication spying program is really coming to an end?