Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bad Bush policies continued, part two

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an important warrantless wiretapping case pending in federal district court in northern California, the Obama DOJ's New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush's.

The case is called Jewel v. ISA. In this case EFF is suing government agencies, including the National Security Agency, on behalf of AT& T customers to stop what it calls "the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records."

EFF blogger Tim Jones reports that in a recent motion to dismiss the case, the Obama administration made two troubling arguments:
First, they argued, exactly as the Bush Administration did on countless occasions, that the state secrets privilege requires the court to dismiss the issue out of hand. They argue that simply allowing the case to continue "would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security." As in the past, this is a blatant ploy to dismiss the litigation without allowing the courts to consider the evidence.

It's an especially disappointing argument to hear from the Obama Administration. As a candidate, Senator Obama lamented that the Bush Administration "invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court." He was right then, and we're dismayed that he and his team seem to have forgotten.

Sad as that is, it's the Department Of Justice's second argument that is the most pernicious. The DOJ claims that the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.

This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented. No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — has ever interpreted the law this way.

For myself, recently I've been searching for a new Internet service provider. I've been using dial-up, and at my house it's about half as fast as it used to be at my apartment. I've been considering going with AT&T, but now I think I won't.

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