Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has led opposition to the PATRIOT Act since its inception, today released the following statement after the Justice Department confirmed it maintains classified legal interpretations of the Act.
“In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Justice recently confirmed that it maintains secret interpretations of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The lawsuit requests that the Department of Justice turn over any files it has on its legal interpretation of Section 215. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have stated that Americans would be ‘stunned’ if they knew that the government has such secret interpretations.
“Section 215 orders are already overly broad. I am gravely concerned that Congress and the American public are not allowed to know how the government interprets its powers under the law.
“Known as the ‘Business Records’ provisions, Section 215 allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation to order any person or business to turn over ‘any tangible things’ as long as it specifies it is for an ‘authorized investigation.’” This provision constitutes a serious violation of our Fourth and First Amendment rights by allowing the government to demand access to records such as library and medical records, even from innocent Americans who are not a target of an investigation.
“The government already maintains sweeping powers under the PATRIOT Act. It has a responsibility to protect the rights of all U.S. citizens without undermining the rights of other citizens. Keeping legal interpretations of such laws a secret undermines public trust and further erodes our constitutional principles. I urge the Department of Justice to make public its interpretation and use of Section 215 orders.”