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. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. I agree Bob. I hate to see it knocked out by a pirate story which fails to mention that the boat is connected to the Pentagon–nothing to see here, move along.

    I want to link to one more story in a very long list of lawless acts committed by the obama administration. (from TPM)

    “Not Just State Secrets: Obama Continuing Bush’s Stonewalling On Gitmo Cases, Lawyer Claims
    By Zachary Roth – April 10, 2009, 3:43PM

    Yesterday we told you about the Obama Justice Department’s invocation of a sweeping state secrets privilege in a warrantless wiretapping case. But that may not be the only area in which the new administration’s war on terror tactics recall the worst excesses of the Bush years.

    Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo had the right to appeal their detentions in federal courts. But since then, only a few cases have been completed. And in an interview with TPMmuckraker, David Cynamon — a lawyer for four Kuwaiti Gitmo detainees who are bringing habeas corpus claims against the government — said that the Justice Department has been consistently dragging its heels in the case, denying detainees their basic due process rights and furthering what he called the “abandonment of the rule of law.”

  3. Pardon me for repeating the obvious, but

    This is the big story of the week.

    Ah denial…

    it’s not just a river in Egypt anymore.

  4. Everyone is going to be thoroughly surprised to learn who all was behind 911. This was State Sponsored Terrorism and there were planning it for a long time. I heard about it from the family back in 1996 only then there were reviewing three different sites with The Twin Towers being one of them. Plus this isn’t the end of it as there is a lot more too.

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

  5. Oh yes, what a tangled web is being woven and of course it is deliberate in order to keep the majority completely out of the loop and unaware. I, too, have been concerned with the lack of legal action toward the previous administration, even in light of all of the apparent evidence to date. All we’ve seen from the current administration are word exchanges with Cheney. I find that quite interesting and began to see how that may all be staged. I’ve also been wondering how all of what is happening now is directly connected with 9/11. I think there are a lot of interesting threads that connect here. Yes, it all makes for quite a great spy film or a John Grisom novel. Like in The Firm, how he was wined and dined (the bait and trap technique) and before he knew it…Wham…they had him just where they wanted him…or so they thought. Yes, I find it quite interesting that a story would appear about China and/or Russia breaking into our power grid and then dissappear. Wouldn’t you think the elected leader would come forth and say Yea or Nay? It’s obviously all fear tactics designed to keep the average citizen right where they want them…in apathy, grief, and fear because it is so much easier to control the masses when they are trying to survive. Gosh, seems a bit more familiar right now doesn’t it? This tactic has been used for a very long time. Religion being a huge one to do so. Oh, yes, you’ll go to heaven as long as you are a good little boy or girl…now remember, don’t make the chief angry or you could be tormented forever. Hmmmm…
    And isn’t it interesting how Cheney frequently states that there were no further “terrorist attacks” after 9/11. What I find interesting is that there was one at all, given the military capability this country has. I’ve been reviewing the 9/11 Mysteries video and just found The Ring of Power videos.
    And with Obama invoking state secrets…well, people, instead of the promised transparency, we have a smoke screen. There are many threads that make up the web.

  6. This is not good news. No rights are really rights if their only guarantee is the promise of the executive. It is from the CCR:

    “WASHINGTON – April 8 – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its opinion in Kiyemba v. Obama. The Court vacated the district court decision, which had required the government to give thirty days advance notice before an individual is transferred from Guantánamo. The Court held that it could not test the Executive’s promise not to transfer someone to a country where he could be tortured.

    In response, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Emi MacLean, issued the following statement:

    For the past four and a half years, approximately sixty men imprisoned in Guantánamo have relied upon the U.S. federal courts to protect them from the military transferring them to a country where they are likely to be tortured. Today, the court has abdicated its role in safeguarding individuals in U.S. custody from transfers to torture.

    Egregiously, the court has done so based upon nothing more than the Executive’s promise not to send an individual to a place where he will be tortured. In the long ugly history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo, the Executive has made repeated hollow promises that “we do not torture.” “Trust the President” is not enough in 2009 to prevent U.S. complicity in torture and to protect an individual’s rights.”

  7. The other thing that is creeping me out is how this and the story of how our govt. engaged in torture has disappeared off NPR. It used to be that Diane Rehm or TOTN would pick up on important stories like these–no more.

    Yesterday and this A.M. on the “news” segment I heard two stories:
    1. China and Russia have broken into our power grid for the purpose of terrorism
    2. Those pirates in Somalia–we need a ground force to clean them out

    Neither of these stories hung together in a rational way but they are most certainly being hyped.

    So two extremely important issues that deserve indepth discussion are wiped off the map, replaced by two rather “shaky” stories that will be discussed. Something is very wrong here. I have noticed an increasingly managed news coming from NPR and other outlets. This trend is a great concern to me.

  8. LarryE,

    I have to let the lawyers address the first part of your question but as to the intelligence sharing I do have some information. The ACLU has written DHS because they are “sharing, just like they learned in kindergarten” illegally collected information, to include having the temerity to work for a third party candidate (that says something) in the fusions centers. The fusion centers are then putting people whose only crime was to speak freely or associate with people of their choice on the terrorism list.

    As to foreign intelligence services–James Bamford claims most of the info being swept up is processed by Israel and distributed pretty much willy-nilly to anyone who pays for it.

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