May 06, 2016

Wyden response to Justice Department claim that they are permitted to keep 2003 OLC memo secret

Sen. Wyden made the following statement today regarding the Justice Department’s new filing in the ACLU FOIA case regarding a classified legal opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dated March 30, 2003.

The Justice Department isn’t denying that this opinion is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law – they are just arguing that they should be allowed to keep it secret,” said Wyden.

The Justice Department has a long track record of denying that the Executive Branch relies on secret law. One particularly egregious example was in 2011 when DoJ spokesman Dean Boyd said: “Contrary to various claims in recent months and years, Section 215 is not a secret law, nor has it been implemented under secret legal opinions by the Justice Department.” The public later found out that a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was being used to justify the mass surveillance of millions of Americans.