ACLU Goes After Secret Patriot Act Interpretation

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Last week I posted on two Senate Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, expressing concern that the government was abusing a section of the Patriot Act that allows the broad collection of  records on Americans so long as the records are collected “for an investigation to protect against international terrorism.”

Udall told me there was a secret Justice Department interpretation of one section of that bill, section 215, that allows the government to gather information on innocent Americans. “Innocent Americans are being swept up in this,” said Udall, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to gather more information on this secret legal opinion.

We request that you release to us any and all records concerning the government’s interpretation or use of Section 215, including but not limited to: legal opinions or memoranda interpreting that provision; guidelines informing government personnel how that provision can be used; records containing statistics about the use or misuse of the provision; reports provided by the executive branch to Congress relating to the executive’s interpretation, use, or misuse of the provision; forms used by executive agencies in connection with the use of Section 215; and legal papers filed by the government or any other party in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and opinions of that court, pertaining to the interpretation, use, or proposed use of Section 215.