EFF: The Fourth Amendment Is Not Top Secret

EFF is requesting that the judge in its FOIA for the October 3, 2011 John Bates FISA Court opinion, Amy Berman Jackson, review the redactions currently in the document to ensure they are properly classified. (h/t Mike Scarcella) It argues the court should undertake such a review because disclosure of the things DOJ had previously claimed were Top Secret has now proven “the agency’s previous blanket withholding assertions were overbroad and wholly without merit.”

To support that case, they point to this passage originally withheld from production.

Upon even a cursory review of the Opinion, it is apparent, DOJ’s blanket exemption claims were far broader than the law allows. For example, this passage, according to the agency, was appropriately “classified at the TOP SECRET level” and withheld from the Opinion:

The Fourth Amendment provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Opinion at 67 (reciting Fourth Amendment); see also Bradley Decl., ¶ 5 (Opinion “withheld in full pursuant to FOIA Exemptions b(1) and b(3)”).

Now, I’m actually not sure about this argument. In recent years, after all, the Fourth Amendment has been almost entirely disappeared without a trace. I wouldn’t be surprised if the government had disappeared it as a conscious policy decision. So perhaps they really do maintain that the Fourth Amendment must now be hidden pursuant to the Executive Order governing classified information.

Technically, the government previously argued that revealing the existence and text of the Fourth Amendment would cause exceptionally grave harm to the United States — that’s what the Top Secret classification it withheld this material under means. [Update: Or, as Nigel puts it, that the opinion referenced the Fourth. Except that’s even more absurd because the FOIA was a response to Ron Wyden’s declassification of a statement that said the FISC had found in this opinion that the program violated the Fourth.]

We’ll see whether Judge Jackson agrees that was a reasonable claim.

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8 Responses to EFF: The Fourth Amendment Is Not Top Secret

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bmaz @CoxHelp Erica, I will be waiting for an explanation to my actual email inquiry
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emptywheel @mattblaze Are you kidding?!? In the 'burbs are where they're making serious, unironic pork off the word.
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bmaz So the police in Baltimore cravenly murder people+are now belligerently refusing admission into Camden Yards? #MilitantAuthoritarianAmerica
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emptywheel RT @elizabeth_joh: Case just made for #SCOTUS cameras: $6000 for a place in line for tomorrow's #SSM arguments http://t.co/p9vbXIpzMz by @…
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bmaz @CoxHelp People who just emailed me yesterday+that I tried to reply to. This is BS. Check your vaunted "Postmaster" inbox and at least try.
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bmaz @CoxHelp What I am saying is that Cox is sending me messages that my email didn't go through to people it has ALWAYS gone throughout to.
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bmaz @william_pitts Great coverage. Still, insanely light speed goofy process that occurred today. To point of being shocking....at least I think
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emptywheel @astepanovich No no no. I switched not long after you did. I'm just a follower.
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emptywheel @StevenTDennis Maybe they're just protecting POTUS? Maybe he's hiding behind her?
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emptywheel RT @dbgrady: New DOD inspector general report finds F-35 program finally on track. Ha ha just kidding it's still a disaster. http://t.co/tv
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emptywheel @JZdziarski Especially when you order to disperse after shutting down public transport.
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emptywheel RT @3coastcon: ICE agent working with detroit police shoots and kills 20 year old man on the west side: http://t.co/bd23kDJlPC
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