In yet another break with its campaign promise to fight to restore civil liberties and privacy, the Obama Administration has made a breathtaking claim of state secrets to block a public interest organization from suing the government for illegal surveillance. There is not a scintilla of difference in the legal position of President Obama and the position of President Bush in trying to quash any effort to challenge unlawful surveillance by the government. It appears the “yes we can” means “yes we can do most anything that we want” when it comes to unlawful programs. I discussed this story on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.
The Administration is moving to kill a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers who were unlawfully intercepted by the government. Not only is the Administration making an extreme argument under the military and state secrets doctrine but it is claimed that citizens cannot sue, even if the government engages in unlawful surveillance, under the Patriot Act. Due to changes put through with Democratic support, the statute is being used to block any lawsuit unless the citizens can show that there was “willful disclosure’” of the communications by the government.
Congress passed the new language last summer with the support of then Sen. Obama in a complete caving into the powerful telecommunications lobby. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has been addressing the impact of this law in dozens of public interest lawsuits. At the same time, the Obama administration is invoking state secrets to try to prevent the review of evidence in the case of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The Administration has even threatened to remove a document from the Court after Judge Walker ruled against it — a position that exceeds even the Bush Administration.
For the government filing, click here.
For the full story, click here.