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Opinion
Noah Feldman

The Secret Law Behind NSA's Verizon Snooping

How, exactly, could the government to order a Verizon division to provide records of all calls -- that's right, all -- to or from the U.S. on an ongoing basis? The answer is secrecy -- but not just in the way you think.
Photographer: Rick Friedman/Bloomberg
Photographer: Rick Friedman/Bloomberg

How, exactly, could the government order a Verizon division to provide records of all calls -- that's right, all -- to or from the U.S. on an ongoing basis? The answer is secrecy -- but not just in the way you think.

It's not only that the highly classified request was made to and approved by a highly classified court. But the legal interpretation of the 2001 Patriot Act that the court appears to have used was itself classified. In other words, there was no way for the public to know what the courts believed the law to mean. And that reality runs counter to the most basic principles of democracy and the rule of law.