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Al Gore on secret law

From his interview with the Guardian:

Unlike other leading Democrats and his former allies, Gore said he was not persuaded by the argument that the NSA surveillance had operated within the boundaries of the law.

"This in my view violates the constitution. The fourth amendment and the first amendment – and the fourth amendment language is crystal clear," he said. "It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is."

Gore added: "This is not right."

To my mind, there are the "secret law" aspect of the NSA scandal is far more powerful as an argument than the "privacy" argument.

I believe in the privacy argument, and the NSA program gives me the creeps (just as Bush's program of warrantless surveillance did). However, the immediate riposte is always "I've got nothing to hide!" where the subtext is "What have you got to hide?" and that just goes off into the weeds and then we're arguing about penumbras to the Constitution and so forth.**

By contrast, anybody can see that secret laws, and secret interpretations, are incompatible with the people being sovereign. If the law can be secret, how are people supposed to obey it? Are you going to be pulled over for speeding and given a ticket because a secret intrepation of the law redefined "55 m.p.h" in as "k.p.h"? Why not?

NOTE * Which would be why you keep your toilet in your living room, I suppose.

NOTE ** I believe that activists push the privacy issue to the fore because they themselves have surveillance as a primal fear, and quite sensibly so. Pragmatically, however, most Americans are not activists.

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letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Nevertheless, the privacy violations are also unconstitutional and the I've done nothing wrong shtick is easy to counter. Specifically, the person may know that they've done nothing and would never do anything wrong. It's too bad that they won't be making that judgment. The people who will be making it will be using secret laws and THEIR personal judgments to decide whether there's a crime or not. And who knows what motivates them; who knows what evil lurks in their hearts. There is no one watching them, and no constraining them, so each one of us who thinks we've done nothing wrong are not determining our fate by not doing anything wrong. Instead, they, the unaccountable ones who are making the judgments and enforcing the ones who will determine our fate, whether we've done nothing or not.

Btw, have you been reading Jonathan Turley lately. He's really been standing up for all of us.

Roman Berry's picture
Submitted by Roman Berry on

Whether future presidents and lawmakers decide to make things into a crime that now are not isn't the issue. No crime is needed for this sort of massive surveillance of the citizenry to be a tool of abuse. Access to this sort of surveillance gives the government tools of control by laying bare the most private of thoughts, transactions and interactions. Any with access to these databases could use a person's thoughts, actions and activities, even though all are legal, as instruments of blackmail, extortion and control. It is impossible for government to have these databases and not abuse them.. It is impossible for government to have these databases and be a government of limited power derived from the consent of the governed. These programs are instruments of control, and of unlimited power over the people. Totally incompatible with liberty and a free society,

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Were very articulate on this issue on this morning's first segment of MSNBC show "UP". (Matt Miller of "Left Right and Center was an ass IMHObut shows the party line). Spencer Ackerman made the point about secrecy being a huge problem regarding Section #215 - Business record section - the interpretation of this part of the law is secret. It seems to authorize vastly more surveillance than had been put into this law but when senators ask they get no straight answers. The government is saying that "in private we can interpret these laws to do what we want to do". So there really are no remedies. No way to have oversight.

He also said that the language of section 215 "...can collect all tangible things relevant to an investigation in these fields." But vacuuming up metadata aren't related but precedes an investigation. But General Keith Alexander insists that "only under strict conditions can we query that metadata". How do they "query"/ Can they do it unilaterally or do they have to go to the surveillance court? Looks like Feinstein says, they, the NSA technicians have unilateral authority to go thru this data. Ridiculous.