A hearing before the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution on Wednesday will delve into the use of secret legal opinions and the interpretations of secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rulings under President George W. Bush.
"There's a body of law out there that is binding but inaccessible," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
Aftergood and J. William Leonard, ex-director of the Information Security and Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, are among the witnesses at the hearing. Until January, Leonard led the office that sets government-wide policies on release of classified material.
"Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government" will be chaired by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) at 9 a.m. Wednesday. There is no pending legislation under consideration, but the hearing will be used to explore the issues, a senate staffer says.
John Elwood, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, also will testify.
Other participants include Bradford Berenson, a Sidley Austin partner and former associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel; Dawn Johnsen, law professor at Indiana University School of Law and a former senior official in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; Heidi Kitrosser, an expert on executive privilege, secrecy and separation of powers at the University of Minnesota Law School; and David Rivkin, a Baker Hostetler partner who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.