You are not smart enough to understand how your government works, and providing you with more information will only confuse you. Important decisions are best made by elite people in secret.
That is the message U.S. District Court Judge John Bates wrote in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee — in private. The committee released the letter, not Bates. The committee is reviewing the National Security Agency and its surveillance activities along with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The judge speaks officially for the judiciary. A former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge, Bates has been designated by Chief Justice John Roberts to act as a judiciary liaison on how to handle spy programs directed at the American people.
“In many cases, public disclosure of Court decisions is not likely to enhance the public’s understanding of FISA implementation if the discussion of classified information within those opinions is withheld. Releasing freestanding summaries of Court opinions is likely to promote confusion and misunderstanding,” he wrote. Upper case “Court,” and lower case “public” are in the letter.
His letter argues strenuously against any transparency on surveillance matters or any “disruption” to what the court is doing now, including new sources of information from a public advocate. Instead, he says the FISA court should continue to get all its information from the NSA — even though the spy agency has a documented record of lying to the court, to the congress, and to the American people. See the judge’s full letter: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=3bcc8fbc-d13c-4f95-8aa9-09887d6e90ed
It continues to be almost beyond belief how our petty administrators have so little regard for the American traditions of self government.
In defense of secrecy and continued control by an elite, Bates’ letter makes wild, sweeping assertions with no factual support. He assumes — in language that fits the divine right of royalty — that the people will automatically accept his judgments about the danger of transparency and independent public debate. “An advocate appointed at the discretion of the Courts is likely to be helpful, whereas a standing advocate with independent authority to intervene at will could actually be counterproductive,” he wrote. If this were a high school essay, the teacher is likely to write in the margin “cite source or other support.”
In America’s long experience, we’ve seen many many officials take power to themselves. You know the list so we don’t need to enumerate here (J. Edgar Hoover). They are eventually shut down, and the correction always begins the same way, with openness and public debate.
We ever need vigilance against such petty tyrants. There remains but one definition of “good government.” It is self government.
Detailed report from Politico: http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2014/01/judges-fight-proposed-nsa-surveillance-reforms-181197.html