The Obama Administration succeeded yesterday in getting three dozen public interest lawsuits dismissed against telecommunication companies. President Obama voted for the bill that gave the companies immunity and sought to prevent a court from declaring the warrantless surveillance program illegal. U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker also ordered investigations in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Missouri to be halted. However, he retained the issue of whether to sanction the Justice Department for its conduct in the case.
The dismissal of these cases should make people cringe next time President Obama or members of Congress say that they believe the courts should resolve constitutional questions. For much of the controversy under the Bush Administration, people like General Michael Hayden insisted that the program was clearly lawful despite the congressional testimony of many of us who called it a federal crime. However, once the issue was actually put in front of a federal court, both President Bush and President Obama pushed to take courts from ruling.
The lingering dispute with the Justice Department centers on a document accidentally turned over to the legal team of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in 2004 that allegedly show illegal interceptions. Walker ruled that that Al-Haramain’s lawyers were to be given access to the document since they had provided enough public government disclosures to support their eavesdropping claims. The Obama Administration expanded on the state secrets filings to stop such disclosure and even threatened to remove the document from the court docket.
For the opinion, click here.
For the full story, click here.