A member of the audience uses their cell phone to take a picture of President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Obama claims that he welcomes debate on the balance between privacy and security. But his administration is keeping the veil over the legal reasoning it used to justify its broad surveillance of phone calls and Internet communication. The absence of this information leaves Americans ill-equipped to even begin to determine whether or not they believe such a sweeping invasion of privacy is justified.

On Tuesday, June 11, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would require the attorney general to disclose significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The senators argue that the disclosure would provide Americans the information needed to understand what legal authority the government is claiming to spy on them under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


With civil liberties hanging in the balance, this debate is critical. Contact your senators and implore them to end the “secret law” behind government surveillance.


In this recent post, John Nichols details the efforts of a bipartisan group of eight senators to require the attorney general to declassify significant FISC opinions.


National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose revelations sparked the new “secret law” bill, remains in Hong Kong after publicly admitting to leaking information on massive US government surveillance. Snowden said he intends to stay until asked to leave, and vowed to fight any extradition attempt by the US government. Snowden said: “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”