Just when you thought the news couldn't get any crazier, Glenn reads a report from Politico on a new secret surveillance court that Biden's attorney general recently staffed. Included in the panel of judges ... former AG Eric Holder of all people. But the story gets more insane. At first, the "Data Protection Review Court" appears to be related to the "lucrative transatlantic data trade" between companies. But then, Politico starts mentioning intelligence agencies, surveillance practices, and visas being denied. Plus, apparently, the court's location is secret, its decisions are kept secret, and plaintiffs aren't even allowed to go to the court. Is this an admission of an international public-private partnership to spy on Americans via European agencies, and vice versa?
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: This comes from politico today. In a deal to let companies, and I would like you to stop me, when you don't understand something, or you think you can explain it, Stu. Okay?
GLENN: All right.
This one is a wild one. In a deal to let companies keep trading transatlantic data, the White House built an opaque new forum, that could affect national security, and privacy rights, without any paper trail.
STU: I mean, there's a lot of questions in that paragraph. But usually the opening one, setting you up for the explanation.
So perhaps I should wait a second.
GLENN: At an undetermined date, in an undisclosed location, the Biden administration began operating a secretive new court, to protect European's privacy rights under US law.
Known officially as the data protection review court, it was authorized in an October 2022 executive order, to fix a collision of European and American law. That had been blocking the lucrative flow of consumer data, between American and European companies, for three years.
Now, this is because Europe has just put in a very strong privacy law.
GLENN: And they're enforcing those things.
Well, we have a problem exchanging data now, because of their private laws.
The court's eight judges. Eight judges were named last November, including, oh. Attorney general Eric Holder. He's trustworthy.
STU: Oh, good.
GLENN: Its existence has allowed companies to resume the lucrative does with the blessing of EU officials.
STU: What is the lucrative transatlantic data trade?
GLENN: I don't know.
They say that it's companies. But then, it -- then -- just listen to the whole story. I mean, they say that's companies trading data.
Or like, for instance, Facebook having servers here. With European at that time on their servers.
STU: Okay. So you could argue, maybe that this needs to be sorted out, because there's nothing nefarious going on here.
It's just -- it's just --
GLENN: Why the secrecy.
STU: Very strange.
Also, did we have -- we cover the news every day. Did we have a new bill, that created this?
Was there a new discussion?
Was there a debate?
GLENN: No. Executive order. A dictate.
STU: A dictate from -- create new courts?
GLENN: New courts. New courts.
STU: Wow. Okay.
GLENN: The next sentence -- because you understand clearly what we're talking about, right?
The next sentence of this article is the details get blurry after that.
STU: Okay. So what we just had, was the in-focus part. Okay.
GLENN: Yes. That's crystal clear. It will get a little blurry now.
The court's location is a secret.
The Department of Justice will not say if it's taken a case yet.
STU: Why -- why would you hide the location of a court that is overseeing data transfers?
STU: What on earth?
Why would that need to be a secretive location?
GLENN: No idea.
Though, the court has a clear mandate ensuring European's their privacy rights under US law. Its decisions will also be kept a secret from both the EU resident's petitioning the court, and the federal agencies tasked with following the law.
STU: Wait. Wait.
So someone in the EU comes to the American court, that the --
GLENN: The secret court.
STU: That they don't know where the location is.
GLENN: Right. I don't know how to contact them. Don't know anything.
STU: So when that happens. Which I assume it would be very infrequently.
When they don't, they go through some sort of case. And then they don't get to know the result of the case?
GLENN: Well, it's not only that. Plaintiffs are also not allowed to appear in person. And are represented --
STU: How could they. They don't know where it is?
GLENN: Right. And they're represented by a special advocate appointed by the US attorney general.
STU: Okay. So --
GLENN: Okay. So --
STU: I have a problem with my data. And I go to this court, that I don't know where it is.
GLENN: Right. And you can't actually go to the court.
STU: I can't actually -- not physically going.
I contact them. They create a case. They assign an advocate for me, to argue the case.
But I can't know where it is, when it's going on, and what the outcome is?
STU: Okay. Perfect.
GLENN: This is just to restore some trust. Critics worry, that it will tie the hands of intelligence agencies, with an unusual power.
It can make binding decisions on surveillance practices, with federal agencies, which won't be able to challenge those decisions.
GLENN: Now, I thought this was about corporate data transfers.
STU: Yeah. What does this have to do with intelligence agencies?
GLENN: Until there's some clarity on how that will operate, I think you would expect the intelligence agency to be nervous about what it might mean, especially since it's not even clear what its caseload might even look like.
For the European citizens, it's supposed to help.
The picture is just as murky.
Private advocates argue that it will be nearly impossible for European residents to bring cases, given that they will have to know that they're being surveilled to file a complaint!
GLENN: Quote, I don't think anyone sitting around in Spain, is unhappy about his visa being denied.
And is going to a -- is going to think that it could be based on data transfers to the US. And go through this process.
STU: Wait a minute. I thought --
GLENN: I know.
STU: I thought we were talking about corporations trading data.
What would that have to do with a Visa being denied from the government.
GLENN: It's weird, huh.
STU: It feels like, and you tell me if I'm wrong here.
It feels like, what's actually happening. That companies, let's say, in the United States, are capturing data and then EU governments are buying the data from the companies in the United States.
Or, the opposite. Right.
GLENN: It's illegal for us to spy on Europeans.
I mean, on Americans.
And it's illegal for them to spy on Europeans.
So we spy on the Europeans, they spy on the Americans.
STU: And it goes through companies, that are just in an international data trade?
Which is, quote, unquote, lucrative.
For the business community, however, the court has already done its first job.
Its very existence allowed EU regulators to finally bless the resumption of the cross border data transfers.
STU: Oh, good.
GLENN: Now. I'm not kidding.
Here's the next sentence. What happens next, or perhaps is already happening, is far less clear.
STU: So -- the part before this was the clear part.
GLENN: No. No.
STU: I thought two parts before --
GLENN: Two parts before, was the clear part. Then it got murky.
STU: Murky or blurry.
GLENN: Blurry. And now it gets even less clear.
STU: Got it. So now you can't even see light at this point.
GLENN: No. Uh-uh. Uh-uh.
The data protection review court is a solution to a transatlantic problem, that had deviled, much of corporate America, and big tech companies in particular.
The global trade in personal data, is large and growing up to $7.1 trillion, between the US and the EU alone.
But governed by legal regimes that differ sharply above borders.
The private data of Europeans. Now, again, we're back to the corporations.
Next paragraph, the private data of European citizens, can legally be surveilled by US intelligence agencies.
But unlike Americans. Europeans have no recourse, under American law.
If agencies overreach.
Again, I thought -- is this an example of a public private partnership.
STU: Yeah. That's what I'm wondering.
It seems like they're going around these rules. By creating, a -- an entity.
STU: Within some new industry. Where they can make these data transfers occur, without them going legally from government to government.
GLENN: As Europe began to implemented stringent 2018 data privacy law, that the imbalance set badly with EU authorities.
And in both a 2015 and 2020 ruling, a European court barred companies outright from transferring or processing EU citizen's data in the US, or at least until the citizens had a way to pursue their rights.
So they can now take the data out. They couldn't before.
But now that they've done this secret court, they can take the data out.
Because apparently, people in Europe. Will know when they're being surveilled.
When their at that time has been used against them.
And they'll have a secret court to go. And they -- they -- you know, that's their recourse.
They won't know if anything has been done.
STU: It seems like, in five years. When they find out, they've been doing it for a long time. Well, nobody asked in court. We got that court set up.
Nobody ever showed up. It's weird. We had like no cases for five years. It seems like no one had a problem with what's going on, I guess.
GLENN: So I don't know who appointed the judges. But the one who announced the judges is Merrick Garland.
STU: I think it said earlier in the article, at the age, he was the one who did it.
GLENN: Oh, good.
So it was Garland. Four of them have deep rooted experience with classified information.
From their previous careers, in the NSA, and national security council.
STU: Oh, good.
GLENN: Or the Department of Justice.
STU: I see no problems in those arenas at all, lately.
GLENN: No. When intelligence agencies are, you know, the watchdogs of themselves.
What could possibly go wrong?
STU: Yeah. What could go wrong? They're the experts in themselves.
GLENN: Experts believe the intelligence community is cautiously waiting for the court's decisions, with the hopes that there won't be new restrictions imposed on its operations.
The judge's final authority, however, creates a degree of concern.
That finality, could create an unanticipated problem for the administration, according to some intelligence experts.
They believe the court could not just constrain the government's spying activity. In specific cases.
But set precedence that cut against the administration's policy.
Of spying on you!
We're talking about a secret court. A secret agency.
Whose location, we don't know.
We know nothing about it.
We know -- we have no idea what court cases are going through.
And it could -- they're worried that it could set a precedent, to cut against the administration policy.
I thought we were talking about corporate data transfers.
STU: And protecting Europeans.
STU: Why would this --
GLENN: The executive order's language, however, specified the court's ruling should apply only to the individual case, that they are hearing.
Which we won't know.
Nor will the people who brought the case.
STU: How could it apply to other cases, if no one knows what the result is?
GLENN: Though experts believe decisions could still create an unofficial precedence for other surveillance operations. Again, surveillance operations.
STU: I thought it was like, you know, corporations. Some handbag company. Is trading data. With some department stores from overseas. I thought that's -- we're not talking about it. Sounds lucrative.
GLENN: No, we're not.
A citizen compliant, first has to shuttle between an EU data protection official, and the US office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Which will decide whether there was a civil rights violation from the data collection.
So the national intelligence agency, is going to decide, whether or not that's even worth bringing up to the court.
Regardless of the results, the response to the initial complaint, will neither confirm nor did know that the EU resident was under US surveillance.
This is insanity. If you don't think our government is building -- a secret court on surveillance?
That you don't have access to?
If you don't think that we are living in a time where this administration, and past administrations, have been building a -- a cage for you, where they know absolutely everything about you.
You're -- you're fooling yourself.
And you don't have a way to stop it.
I mean, well, you could, of course, apply. You'll find that in the blue pages, I'm sure, in your -- in your phone book.
STU: But it sounds worrisome.
But at the end of the day, remember, Eric Holder is there to watch the process.
GLENN: Amen, brother.
Thank you for that ray of sunshine.