Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Edward Snowden’s release of previously secret information, we have learned more about the sins of our federal government agencies than many of us would have like to have known. I say we would not like to have known, not because we didn’t need the information, but because I’m sure many of us would’ve like to have continued believing that our guys were behaving like the “good guys” should. But we now know some of what was really happening behind closed doors… and it’s ugly. So how should we move forward? What we need to do is first, fully pull back the curtains on what is really happening at the agencies who are violating our civil liberties. USA Today, was doing just that when they used FOIA to request information about what the Justice Department may have done when they first learned that the NSA was breaking laws and misusing their investigative powers.
“The Justice Department’s internal ethics watchdog says it never investigated repeated complaints by federal judges that the government had misled them…”
For over two years the NSA misled, confused, and lied to the FISA courts who were supposed to be overseeing them. Things were bad enough that the judges involved realized that they were being lied to and complained about it, threatening to “hold national security officials in contempt or refer their conduct to outside investigators.” Generally, when something like this happens and complaints are filed, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) would respond by probing the judge’s complaints. They would investigate to see if the lawyers involved were intentionally misleading the court -- but according the OPR they never did such an investigation, nor were they even aware of any complaints.
This begs the question, how did the OPR not know of complaints made by the FISA courts when they routinely are involved in cases where less scandalous behavior is conducted? These were not run of the mill complaints coming from the FISA judges; these were “scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.” Former OPR attorney Leslie Griffin says, “There’s enough in the opinions that it should trigger some level of inquiry.”
So what happened? Was it just some odd coincidence that the most egregious example of government abuse of our civil liberties in modern history was overlooked by Eric Holder's Justice Department? Or was someone at the Justice Department (someone very important - someone with enough clout to pull this off) guiding the obfuscation of the FISA courts complaints in an effort to make sure that the NSA could continue to operate in the darkness it so enjoyed?
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe in coincidence either.