In addition to revealing the administration’s aggressive interpretations of surveillance laws, the disclosures about two National Security Agency surveillance programs demonstrate another problem with U.S. counterterrorism policy: excessive secrecy that undermines accountability. The government’s interpretations of the law should not be secret — especially when those interpretations stretch the statutory language to the point where congressional sponsors of the legislation, such as Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) [“Lawmakers defend, criticize NSA collection of phone logs,” news article, June 7], express shock at the administration’s conclusion that such conduct is legal.
While it may be appropriate to maintain secrecy for any evidence submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to justify such surveillance, there should be no place for “secret law” in a democracy. Interpretations of laws and the standards being applied by the court should be public, to permit meaningful public debate and rigorous oversight of government actions.
Sharon Bradford Franklin, Washington
The writer is senior counsel for the Constitution Project.