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An organization that monitors and reports on privacy issues wants to see of copy of a “secret law” announced by Barack Obama regarding the National Security Agency and its reach into private Internet communications.

“This (Freedom of Information Act) request involves information on the National Security Agency’s authority to invade civilian networks,” a letter from the Electronic Privacy Information Center to the NSA headquarters in Fort George G. Meade, Md., says.

The letter submitted this week is a request for the public release of Presidential Policy Directive 20.

“On Nov. 14, 2012, the Washington Post reported President Obama had signed Presidential Policy Directive 20 … in October. According to the Washington Post, the directive ‘enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation’s web of government and private computer networks.’ The text of the directive has not been made public,” the letter explains.

But the letter said the Post reported previous attempts by the president to expand the military’s cybersecurity authority had been rejected as posing “unacceptable risks” and potentially “harmful consequences.”

Further, EPIC wrote, the directive “may violate federal law that prohibits military deployment within the United States without congressional approval.”

The organization noted that it took similar action, which was unsuccessful, when President George W. Bush issued a directive (54) in 2008, which defined the cybersecurity authority of the NSA.

EPIC noted that [the older directive] is equivalent to “secret law,” the very thing the “FOIA seeks to prevent.”

See what the government also is doing, in “One Nation Under Surveillance.”

“Transparency in cybersecurity is crucial to the public’s ability to monitor the government’s national security efforts and ensure that federal agencies respect privacy rights and comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act,” EPIC wrote. “This FOIA request involves information on the National Security Agency’s authority to invade civilian Internet networks. Responsive documents will hold a great informative value regarding activities of the government that will have a significant public impact.

“There is a particular urgency for the public to obtain information about the NSA’s cybersecurity activities within the United States. As previously discussed, numerous bills are currently being considered by Congress to address U.S. cybersecurity policy. In order for meaningful public comment on these bills, as well as subsequent cybersecurity measures, the public must be aware of the authority that the president’s directive establishes,” it argued.

The potential is huge, the organization said.

“The NSA has an almost boundless capacity to intercept private communications. The need to establish effective oversight for government surveillance, including matters involving national security, is well-understood and a long-standing concern.”

The organization noted it also has sought public release of the technical arrangement between the NSA and Google that was adopted in 2010, because federal law prevents the agency, a part of the Department of Defense, from conducting operations within the U.S.

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