Secrecy News

Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic Government

“The notion of secret law has been described in court opinions and law treatises as ‘repugnant’ and ‘an abomination’,” observed Sen. Russ Feingold. “It is a basic tenet of democracy that the people have a right to know the law.”

“But the law that applies in this country is determined not only by statutes and regulations, but also by the controlling interpretations of courts and, in some cases, the executive branch. More and more, this body of executive and judicial law is being kept secret from Congress as well,” he said.

To probe that subject, Sen. Feingold’s subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last April 30, the full record of which has just been published.  See “Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government.”

The hearing volume includes newly published responses (pdf) to questions for the record from John P. Elwood of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, Prof. Dawn E. Johnsen, who is now working with the Obama transition team, former ISOO director J. William Leonard, myself, and others.