Senators ask DOJ to come clean on Supreme Court surveillance case

A group of senators asked the Department of Justice to come clean to the Supreme Court about statements it made in a case over U.S. surveillance programs.

The department should clarify any misleading statements it made when the court was considering Clapper v. Amnesty International, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) said in a letter to U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli on Thursday.

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court dismissed Clapper v. Amnesty International, which challenged the constitutionality of U.S. surveillance programs authorizes by the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court ruled that Amnesty International had no evidence that its communications had been swept up in the government’s surveillance programs.

“The Court was given misleading information,” leading it to believe that the government intercepted only communications to and from “foreign intelligence targets,” the letter said.

Due to disclosures in recent months, it “is now public, although not widely understood” that the law “has been secretly interpreted to authorize the collection of communications that are merely about a targeted overseas foreigner.”

Still, the government’s potentially misleading statements to the Supreme Court “have not yet been acknowledged or corrected,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers asked Verrilli to answer questions about the accuracy of the information presented to the Supreme Court and explain any discrepancies between the government’s statements and the now-public information about government surveillance programs.

“We are not claiming to know whether knowledge of the ‘about’ collection would have changed the majority’s decision in this case,” they wrote.

The government’s now-public interpretation of the surveillance law “clearly increases the likelihood that the respondents’ communications would have been collected … and thus we are concerned that this collection was not contemplated in the government’s arguments or the Court’s opinion.”

The senators applauded the DOJ for having “publicly clarified that going forward, its policy will be to inform defendants when evidence against them has been acquired or derived” from government surveillance programs.