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A secret law is a binding statute, regulation, policy, or directive that, for one reason or another, has been kept secret from the persons to whom it applies. Such laws were common in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. The term has resurfaced in the United States since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in reference to certain counterterrorist measures employed by the Bush Administration.
The OLC is the most important government office you've never heard of. Among its bosses--before they went on the Supreme Court--were William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia. Within the executive branch, including the Pentagon and CIA, the OLC acts as a kind of mini Supreme Court. Its carefully worded opinions are regarded as binding precedent--final say on what the president and all his agencies can and cannot legally do.
There are at least two major problems with OLC's legal advice regarding counter terrorism measures, Id like to say a few words about each of these. First, on many occasions, OLC wrongly advised the executive branch that it did not need to comply with existing legal restrictions. The basis for that flawed advice was an extreme and plainly erroneous view of the President's constitutional powers. For example, the March 14 2003 OLC opinion released last month sweepingly declared Congress has no authority to regulate the Presidents ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants or to try them before military commission...
...Problem two. OLC kept their profoundly flawed legal interpretations secret which made it impossible for there to be any public debate or scrutiny or remedy of these extreme legal views, or the governments actions in many cases, that were taken based on these views. Actions that of course included electronic surveillance here in the United States without complying with FISA's court order requirements, the use of extreme interrogation methods including water boarding in violation of legal prohibitions, the indefinite detention of people at Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons abroad. As the sub-committee well knows in some cases Congress and the public do not even learn about these violations of the law for years. And only then after leaks in many cases. The Bush administration continues to with hold many legal opinions, and to force Congress essentialy to legislate in the dark.