Secret law

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Secret law refers to legal authorities that require compliance that are classified or otherwise withheld from the public.[1] Such non-promulgated laws were common in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries.[citation needed] The term has been used in reference to some counterterrorist measures[2] taken by the Bush Administration in the United States following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Patriot Act has been referred to as having secret interpretations.[3]

Secret law in the United States[edit]

Since about 2015 the branches of the United States federal government have accused one another of creating secret law. Journalists, scholars, and anti-secrecy activists have also made similar allegations. Scholarly analysis has shown that secret law is present in all three branches. One scholar, Professor Dakota Rudesill, recommends that the country affirmatively decide whether to tolerate secret law, and proposes principles for governing it, including: public law’s supremacy over secret law; no secret criminal law; public notification of creation of secret law; presumptive sunset and publication dates; and availability of all secret law to Congress.[4][5]

Secret regulations in UK public places[edit]

In Britain many open places freely accessible by the public are actually privately owned public spaces (POPS). Information on ownership is considered confidential, and not provided either by the owners, or by local councils that have the information. As in any private property the owner may require visitors to abide by specified rules; but people freely accessing the place are not informed of the rules, which may nevertheless be enforced by security guards. Typical prohibitions which do not apply to genuinely public spaces include protesting, and photography.

Councils mostly refused to provide information on existing and planned pseudo-public spaces. They also refused to say how information could be obtained, or to provide information on private restrictions on exercising the other rights people have on genuinely public land. Councils were criticised for being under the influence of property developers and corporate owners. A member of the London Assembly said "Being able to know what rules you are being governed by, and how to challenge them, is a fundamental part of democracy".[6]


Secret laws and their negative effects are described in Franz Kafka's novel Der Prozess (The Trial).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rudesill, Dakota (2015). "Coming to Terms With Secret Law" (PDF). Harvard National Security Journal. 7 (1): 249. 
  2. ^ "The Arrival of Secret Law". FAS Project on Government Secrecy. 14 November 2004. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (25 May 2011). "There's a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says". Wired. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Rudesill, Dakota (2015). "Coming to Terms With Secret Law". Harvard National Security Journal. 7 (1): 241–391. 
  5. ^ "The new era secret law". 18 October 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  6. ^ "'It's really shocking': UK cities refusing to reveal extent of pseudo-public space". The Guardian. 26 September 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2017.