Obama Administration Invokes State Secrets To Kill Lawsuit Over Unlawful Surveillance Program

225px-official_portrait_of_barack_obama225px-george-w-bushIn 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.

54 thoughts on “Obama Administration Invokes State Secrets To Kill Lawsuit Over Unlawful Surveillance Program”

  1. FFLEO,

    “They also said disclosure of whether AT&T took part in the program would tell the nation’s enemies “which channels of communication may or may not be secure.”
    The nation’s enemies are the government’s lawyers, in this case.”

    What you said is true but what I find most contemptable is this: It’s obvious that the govt. considers the people of the US to be its enemies. We all now know (including terrorists) that AT&T, along with every other communications carrier/devise is routing our most routine communication to the govt. That bush and now obama see fit to make our own population their enemy is the mark of dictators, not democratic leaders.

    I think sending money to ACLU and EFF is a good idea because they don’t care who’s in power. If the person in power is “doing bad things” (to quote JT in his excellent anaylsis) then these groups, and some others, are going after them. I have real hope this judge will tell them to put their request where the sun don’t shine.

  2. i think it’s important that the media report on issues such as these and we the people encourage the media to do so. The poeple must hold politians accountable to their word and demand that the media is relentless in their pursuit of the truth. Support groups that are fighting the fight and get involved. I am outraged by this abuse of power to blatantly take away the peoples rights of privacy. My next action will be to contact the ACLU and the American Freedom Campaign to see what i can do, i suggest everyone to make some effort to do something to inspire others to make a difference.

  3. posted earlier

    Former Federal LEO
    1, April 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm
    We all grew to expect this type of corrupt nonsense with the Bush Administration. In some ways, having Mr. Obama renege on his pledges is especially exasperating for a lifelong Republican who voted for and trusted him.

    A person’s pledges, oaths of office, and codes of ethics in today’s world are just not as honored as they once were in this once great Nation”This is because to start with politics was not such a lucrative business as it is now! Let me start with the very beginning of the declaration of independence.
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    (Yet people use these original documents to take their creator out of everything!) (Parenthesis are my words)

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from the consent..we must consent..we gave up our consent)
    That whenever any Form of Gove Parenthesisrnment becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. “
    (Please read the full declaration and see if it does nor remind you of every politician currently in office when they refer to the king. http://www.thisnation.com/library/declaration.html
    Politicians should be here to serve us not get rich. The job pays entirely too much. If it paid less the people applying might actually care about us instead of satisfying big money. On that note I can’t believe anyone is actually surprised that Obama is going against his campaign promises”let me be clear on this.” He was craw fishing before he ever even made it to office. He like every other big player in politics said whatever we wanted to hear to get the big check. And they will keep doing so as long as we let them. )

  4. Professor Truley,
    Why I understand the need for State Secrets and the deniability thing for the President, as an American Layman Citizen I am not sure that what “We the People” are asking for pushes the theshold that the Loyal Opposition is stating.

    For why names, dates, and other information may expose the means by which America is using to obtain certain information, couldn’t the fact that the event in question happened be presented in such a manner that would protect the Individual and System, but still be of value to the Courts of the Land?

    Because why I cannot remember how certain things were handled during the Council of 12 in the 70’s, I do believe that some of the more gross violations and abuse of power need to come to the Light of Day so that future generations may learn from My Peers and Their Children how to better deal with the Issues of Privacy.

  5. From the govt. filing link:



    “For the foregoing reasons, the Court should dismiss plaintiffs’ statutory claims for lack of jurisdiction, uphold the Government’s privilege assertions, enter summary judgment for the
    Government Defendants, and dismiss the case as to all defendants and all claims.”

  6. Quote from the link:

    “Individual customers cannot show their messages were intercepted, and thus have no right to sue, because all such information is secret, government lawyers said. They also said disclosure of whether AT&T took part in the program would tell the nation’s enemies “which channels of communication may or may not be secure.”

    The nation’s enemies are the government’s lawyers, in this case.

  7. Prof. Turley, I try to avoid addressing you directly since I know you have more to do than respond to every exasperated blogger. But I watched you on Olbermann tonight and I’m spitting angry. This case cries out for some amicus participation. Are you aware of any prospects for that? If Pres. Obama’s aim is simply to consolidate the executive powers hijacked by his predecessor, the sense of betrayal among his supporters may well translate into a one-term presidency. Even worse, the erosion of constitutional protections against unlawful surveillance will become encapsulated in granite.

  8. Ijust listened to Prof. Turley on the replay of the Olberman Countdown show and I am still trying to catch my breath. I do not have the ability to review the blog while at works, so I did not see or hear anything about this amazing claim in the instant case. We may have to rely on the judge seeing that this claim must be unconstitutional. I have to digest this claim and take another look at the filing, but at first glance, it is awful news.

  9. I must say that I am saddened to be come aware of this. Yes, I will admit that I had high hopes for truth, justice and the Amercian dream…well, back to square one I guess. Prof. Turley, what can we, as Amercian citizens do? I think it is imperative to the integrity of our country to demand accountability of the former adminstration and indeed, of the present administration.
    If we don’t…what does that say about us, about the Obama administration? Corruption as usual? I feel so dismayed by this who thing. We need to stand together and demand accountability, integrity, honest and well, yes, I’ll say it…transparency from our ELECTED government officials. We pay their salaries after all. Enough is enough. I hope that we, the people, stand together and demand accountability and integrity.

  10. We all grew to expect this type of corrupt nonsense with the Bush Administration. In some ways, having Mr. Obama renege on his pledges is especially exasperating for a lifelong Republican who voted for and trusted him.

    A person’s pledges, oaths of office, and codes of ethics in today’s world are just not as honored as they once were in this once great Nation.

  11. There will be multiple protests against the unlawful behavior of Obama towards the financial industry on April 11, at 2:00 p.m. It won’t hurt to bring a sign demanding prosecutions for war crimes to the same protests:

    I know this isn’t a good answer but it’s something. You can check the link below or go to your local govt. fusion center and they’ll tell who’s meeting where:) (The protests is not a joke!) Scream like hell and don’t ever back down to this corrupt govt.


  12. I want to live in a Honest Society. Pray tell where shall I go? Do you think the rabbit found it?

    Even the damn wizard lied. But was the rabbit was stoned?

    Watson and Sherlock shared there shit.

    Is there a place that I can find Utopia where alls they serve is tapioca?

    Even going up that mountain had it rough moments.

    I want to live in a society that does not kill. I read a book called the bible. It had stories of murder to.

    I just wish I’d never been born to this awful cruel world.

  13. This is horrifying to me. The bomb has been dropped. I have been waiting to see the bunch of idiots we had to live with for eight years face what they did. Now apparently It is not to be. Aaaaah politics as usual. Someone please do something before I run down the street ripping my hair out.

  14. Prof. Turley,

    Is there a way American citizens can force Eric Holder and the
    Justice Department to prosecute the people in the previous administration for breaking the law by authorizing torture?
    Where is it written in our constitution, that some people are
    exempt from the law?- and therefore, if our Justice Department
    does not unhold the law, what is the remedy for American citizens?

  15. Then bring forth your evidence publicly, Marty. We’d all be interested in seeing it and if you can substantiate your claims, there is most certainly an ambitious prosecutor out there who would have no qualms about building his career on the bones of the Obama administration. Absent public proof and a trial though, your claims do nothing more than create (possibly false) implication – the veracity of which could only be determined by said discovery and trial processes.

    But none of that, if true, is relevant to the issue here. It has nothing to do with continuing a Bush policy that violates the Constitution. Echelon and Carnivore were in place long before Obama and not exactly a secret in the IT/Telecom world. The issue isn’t capability. The issue is the use/misuse of data collected this way absent judicial review. While your statements may, if true, cast shadow on the integrity of the Obama administration, it’s irrelevant to the facts surrounding the surveillance programs and their Constitutional application and massive potential for abuse if not constrained by review by FISA or another court before letting such evidence be used against U.S. citizens who are guaranteed (as in NOT NEGOTIABLE) freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

    But please, if you have sustainable proof of these criminal allegations, bring them forward to prosecutors and/or the media. I’m sure MSNBC or any of the other MSM outlets would jump at the chance to break some real news.

  16. Prof. Turley, I’ll be looking for your comments on Olbermann tonight. The issues raised in this case are complicated and profound.

  17. Why is everyone so surprised? I’ve known about Obama’s (and people surrounding him in his Administration) involvement in a Federal/Chicago Combine corruption criminal system for years.

    I was in a family for more than 26 years who’s job when starting in this criminal system was to launder criminal money into property using Mortgage Fraud schemes. In the early 90’s the family joined with Clyde O’Connor (my ex-sister-in-law’s brother) to start a new company in Florida to Air Distribute drugs. They were busted more than 2 years ago in Mexico…

    read it here:
    Mexico drug plane used for US ‘rendition’ flights: report
    Sep 4, 2008

    Obama while working at the law firm in the 90’s according to the family assisted them with setting up their business in Florida. Plus a well known Atty while researching found that Obama owns over 130 properties which is how people are paid.

    However they remain at large to this day.

    Stanford who’s in the news is one of the friends, gee I wonder why?

    But they told me while married that the wiretapping done by the Feds and others is to help manage huge criminal activities. The Drug business around Chicago which the family is involved in is a weekly $100Million shipment. That greases a lot of palms which I know from the family includes many Politicians.

    Plus every Castle has a moat which is to protect the Castle. In this case, my town of Northbrook where the family also lives, is protected by a corrupt Police Department backed up by a corrupt city Administration. Up in McHenry Ill another family is considered the Midwests largest Drug Lord who are also protected by corrupt police and Politicans.

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

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