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Oh yeah, Secret Courts. That's what we need

 
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CTrees



Joined: 21 Jul 2006
Posts: 3772

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:53 pm    Post subject: Oh yeah, Secret Courts. That's what we need Reply with quote

Quote:
Judge dismisses Terkel v. AT&T

District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly dismissed yesterday a lawsuit brought against AT&T on behalf of author Studs Terkel and other citizens of Chicago opposed to the National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap program. Filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after the revelation of the NSA's highly classified warrantless eavesdropping activities, the suit alleges that AT&T colluded with the secretive government agency in an extralegal domestic surveillance conspiracy that involved providing the government with access to private consumer phone records. The ACLU had hoped to convince the court to issue an injunction that would prevent AT&T from perpetuating its participation in the surveillance program.

During the case, the federal government invoked the state secrets privilege in an attempt to get the case thrown out. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Carl J. Nichols argued that explicit confirmation or denial of the program's existence would constitute an unacceptable risk to national security, saying that "the present situation involves a risk of terrorist attacks against the United States, so even the smallest risk is not a risk that we should tolerate."

Opponents of the NSA wiretap program argue that widespread public knowledge of the program already eliminates any security advantages that could potentially have been gleaned from secrecy and that the government is exploiting the state secrets privilege to obscure misconduct from scrutiny. In the end, the court sided with the government's lawyers, and Judge Kennelly stated that public disclosure of the facts associated with the case could potentially assist terrorists. "The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities.

The ACLU disagrees with the court, and feels that AT&T should still be held accountable for its alleged participation in the conspiracy. ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Harvey Grossman states that "a private company—AT&T—should not be able to escape accountability for violating a federal statute and the privacy of their customers on the basis that a program widely discussed in public is secret. Members of Congress publicly discussed the program of gathering data from telephone companies without lawful authorization in violation of existing federal law."

It is important to note that Terkel v. AT&T is only one of many suits filed in response to evidence of the NSA's alleged wiretapping misconduct. The ACLU also has a pending suit against the NSA, which suggests that the program itself "seriously compromis[es] the free speech and privacy rights of the plaintiffs and all Americans" and should be declared unconstitutional.

The federal government has also attempted to invoke the state secrets privilege to stifle the EFF's legal actions, but has so far failed. Last week, a federal judge refused to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by the EFF against AT&T, prompting prominent Republican senators and the Bush administration to negotiate a deal on legislation that could potentially move the lawsuit and others like it to a secret court that would be hidden from the public and would exclude participation of nongovernment lawyers.
Tool against terrorism, or shield for government malfeasance?

Although president Bush claims that the wiretap program provides vital intelligence for use in the war on terror, Jon has made many compelling arguments against the wiretap program on the basis of pragmatic technological issues. In light of the program's questionable value and serious implications with regards to civil liberties, it seems only prudent to ensure that proper oversight and fourth amendment protections are in place. Invoking the state secrets privilege in order to impede inquiry by the courts into a program that has already been discussed on national television by the president himself amounts to little more than a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent oversight and undermine attempts to ensure government accountability. Informed consent is the single most relevant factor that distinguishes democracy from tyranny, and when the scope and nature of government surveillance programs are kept a secret, democracy is fundamentally degraded. The ACLU has been dealt a considerable setback, but the government hasn't succeeded in silencing every voice of dissent. The actions of the NSA may yet be laid bare and subjected to oversight.


Score one for the Bush admin, I guess. Here's hoping the EFF suit goes better.
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Jinx



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 3638
Location: America, fuck yeah!

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When learned legal scholars make decisions like this, it makes me question my own rationality. I start thinking there must be something flawed in my reasoning, because I read the lawyers' arguments and think things like, "WTF? The President and Congress have already talked about it. Trying to be dodgy about whether or not it exists now is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube."

<sigh>
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mantismag



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 81

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

who would preside over such a court? and excluding non-government lawyers? they should allow any lawyer in and then promise "very bad things" if they should talk about what happens in the secret court. although the idea of a secret court raises troubling questions of regulation at least it's better than having the cases dismissed outright.

another thing that bothers me is the fact that congress can legislate reactively. although i'm sure there's situations where we would want them to write laws to deal with issues as they emerge it seems the administration can only be arsed to do so in order to stomp on our rights and interfere in our lives.
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nathan



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 6282

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jinx wrote:
When learned legal scholars make decisions like this, it makes me question my own rationality. I start thinking there must be something flawed in my reasoning, because I read the lawyers' arguments and think things like, "WTF? The President and Congress have already talked about it. Trying to be dodgy about whether or not it exists now is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube."

<sigh>


Amen. I am continually reading Supreme Court/etc decisions and being flat flabergasted that the arguments are so terribly misconceived that I could easily point to seven people on a forum for internet comics who could point out the logical flaws. With their eyes closed. I can't help but wonder "am I really this ignorant of the law? Am I missing some extensive beneath-the-surface dialogue?"

But then Justice Stevens writes his dissenting opinion, and I just go cry for awhile.
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Dro



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3860

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

*pats nathan*
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