Since 1978 Congress has passed fewer and fewer laws, but according to one Ohio State law professor, secret laws are on the rise.
Professor Dakota Rudesill’s study shows that especially when Congress passes military funding bills, such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), they are often coming with secret riders which change American law.
Rudesill found that while these riders are in the bills themselves, they are classified and therefore, the public does not know how or what the law changes.
The study found that secret laws dramatically started to increase during the Iraq War and then again during the middle of President Obama’s first term.
“It’s kind of remarkable in this age when everything leaks,” Rudesill told Vocativ, “but there’s not one single one of these addenda that’s surfaced in 36 years, so we don’t actually know what’s in it.”
An example of one of these secret laws is the Total Information Awareness program run by DARPA and was passed by the Defense Appropriations Act early on in the Iraq War. The program sought to predict who might become a terrorist by combing through personal records such as medical histories. When the program came to light the negative outcry and accusations that it violated the Fourth Amendment lead to the cancellation of the program.
Rudesill said that there needs to be a better system to notify the public when there is a classified law that Congress passes.
“If we as a country decide that some amount of secret law is inevitable, it seems to me that one principle of secret law is that when it’s created, there’s some sort of notice provided to the public,” he said. “It could just be a very brief notice in the Federal Register. Just say ‘on this date, the Department of Justice issued a memo on surveillance,’” along with a date, Rudesill said.