Senate Dem pressures DOJ for secret cyber memo

A Senate Democrat on the Select Intelligence Committee is putting pressure on the Justice Department to release a contentious, secret legal opinion that is believed to be connected to cybersecurity law.   

Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenDems see political gold in fight over Trump's taxes Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns MORE (D-Ore.), who has pressed the department to release the ruling since 2010, said in a letter Thursday the government should comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and end a lawsuit over the 2003 document.

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“I believe that this opinion is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law, and should be withdrawn,” Wyden wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “I also believe that this opinion should be declassified and released to the public, so that anyone who is a party to one of these agreements can consider whether their agreement should be revised or modified.”

“For these reasons, I encourage you to direct DOJ officials to comply with the pending FOIA request.”

The 2003 opinion remains shrouded in secrecy despite efforts from Wyden and civil liberties figures to bring it into the light.

It interprets “commercial service agreements” — presumably between telecommunications providers and their customers — and is suspected to outline how the government might be able to access some Americans' data.

In November, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit under FOIA demanding that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel release the order.  

In his letter, Wyden raised alarm about a new classified memorandum of law filed earlier this month as part of that court case.

The memorandum “contains a key assertion which is inaccurate,” Wyden wrote on Thursday.

“This assertion appears to be central to the DOJ’s legal arguments, and I would urge you to take action to ensure that this error is corrected.”

In addition to the public letter, Wyden on Thursday sent a classified attachment going into added detail about the “inaccurate assertion.”