Responding to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Department of Justice (DOJ) turned over a bundle of documents that are completely blacked out.
The lawsuit was filed after the DOJ ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information on how the agency interpreted a 2011 Supreme Court decision (PDF) that bans law enforcement from using GPS technology to track Americans without a warrant.
The Department responded to the lawsuit with 111 pages of attorney memos, but only two pages are legible. The rest are covered by large black rectangles that blot out all useful information.
“The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant,” ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump explained in a statement.
“This is yet another example of secret surveillance policies—like the Justice Department’s secret opinions about the Patriot Act’s Section 215—that simply should not exist in a democratic society,” she added. “Privacy law needs to keep up with technology, but how can that happen if the government won’t even tell us what its policies are?”
The ACLU said it would be asking a federal court to force the DOJ to release the uncensored versions of the two memos. Until then, it’s anyone’s guess what the federal government considers to be the limit of its power to stalk citizens without prior approval by a judge.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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