Feeds

Obama's DoJ defends Bush-era wiretaps

Telecom spy program a 'state secret'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The US Justice Department under President Obama is invoking Bush Administration tactics to dismiss a lawsuit alleging federal agents engaged in illegal phone and email surveillance of ordinary US citizens.

A motion submitted to US District Judge Walker on Friday claims disclosing information on the National Security Agency's warrentless wiretapping program would "cause exceptionally grave harm to national security."

The 36-page brief invokes"state secrets" privileges to keep mum on the case, and claims the 2001 Patriot Act grants government agencies an umbrella "sovereign immunity" for domestic spy programs.

In September 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation backed a handful of AT&T customers suing President Bush, the NSA, and nine other public officials to stop what the group characterizes as an "illegal and unconstitutional dragnet communications surveillance in concert with major telecommunication companies." The lawsuit was nearly a duplicate to one the EFF filed earlier against AT&T's practice of funneling internet traffic into a secret room in its San Francisco central office for government spooks to pour over. That first lawsuit was stalled when Congress granted retroactive immunity to telecoms for whatever spying activities they may have been involved with – so the group decided to go after holding government officials accountable for allegedly playing loose and easy with US Constitution and various statutory provisions.

The buck can't stop here, the DoJ said today. The filing argues the statutory claims of the seventeen-count complaint against the US are invalid because congress hasn't waived sovereign immunity granted by the Patriot Act of 2001. Constitutional claims should also be waived because "at every stage," the claims would "require or risk the disclosure of information that is properly subject to the state secrets privilege."

The filing claims EFF's allegations that government agencies collected content on millions of ordinary US citizens is false, and only helped themselves to a bit of eavesdropping if "a participant was reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization."

The EFF fired back today by heaping on harsh Bush Administration comparatives.

"President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties," EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston."But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that much-publicized warrentless wiretapping program is still a 'secret' that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again."

A copy of the DoJ's motion to dismiss is available here. (PDF) ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.