Thursday, May 26, 2011

Secret laws for secret police

Describing Rand Paul the only senator opposing the Patriot Act was slightly incorrect. Ron Wyden, a senator from Oregon, has not been nearly as forceful, yet heals spoke out against that bill on the Senate floor this week. The primary objection he voices is one this author had not previously heard, yet which is perhaps one of the most shocking of all the reasons for opposing the act. Unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch are those tasked with actually interpreting real-world application of policies contained within the Patriot Act and forbid most of the democratically elected representatives of the people from knowing any particulars of their interpretation. In an article challenging the act's renewal, Senator Wyden wrote in part:
As members of the Senate Intelligence Committee we have been provided with the executive branch's classified interpretation of those provisions and can tell you that we believe there is a significant discrepancy between what most people - including many Members of Congress - think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and what government officials secretly believe the Patriot Act allows them to do.

… Congress and the public are prevented from having an informed, open debate on the Patriot Act because the official meaning of the law itself is secret. Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations that the executive branch is currently relying on and do not have any staff who are cleared to read them. Even if these members come down to the Intelligence Committee and read these interpretations themselves, they cannot openly debate them on the floor without violating classification rules.