Obama's DoJ defends Bush-era wiretaps
Telecom spy program a 'state secret'
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) ®
I hate to do it, but
I did say it didn't matter who won before the election. Do the words, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" sound familiar or mean anything to anyone? Oh yeah, "won't get fooled again" my arse. Did you know that gullible isn't in the dictionary?
Paris because even she knows.
All Governments are the Same
Like a relative of mine apparently said, "Doesn't matter if the Tories or Labour are in power, taxes always go up". I think this is even more true to so today. Despite some differences parties that used to occupy left or right-wing positions have moved to the centre. Obama may indulge in the usual Democratic statist spending, but he's not going to change Bush's security or defence policies much. Perhaps real politik or his security advisors have persuaded him to change his stance. I also believe that whatever noises the Conservatives make about civil liberties, their natural instinct is to go for more national security, not less. In the end I don't trust politicians. I think they find the idea of the internet as something outside their control which undermines the power of traditional elites disturbing (e.g. faciliatating illegal downloads, terrorism, etc.) Unless their is a massive revolt legislatures will continue to move more towards the Chinese model of surveillance and repression. It is in our hands as internet users to fight or evade snooping. There are tools to obsfuscate their electronic traces like encryption which will make it more difficult for the eavesdroppers. Which should all be using them.
In theory ...
In theory, Obama's a student of Constitutional Law ... Hopefully he'll be able to fix the mess that he's been handed (thanks, George!).
"Government of the people, by the people, for the people" & all that ... But it's only been a few days. Big changes take time.