Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”     Thomas Sowell

April 8, 2009

Meet The New Wiretapper, Same As The Old Wiretapper

by Doug Mataconis

The Obama Administration continues to defend the Bush Administration’s wiretapping policies:

(04-06) 15:26 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, this time against a lawsuit by AT&T customers who claim federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.

Disclosure of the information sought by the customers, “which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Friday in San Francisco.

Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign’s “unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency.”

(…)

The administration’s new filing asks Walker to dismiss a second suit filed in September by AT&T customers that sought to sidestep the telecommunications immunity law by naming only the government, Bush and other top officials as defendants.

Like the earlier suit, the September case relies on a former AT&T technician’s declaration that he saw equipment installed at the company’s San Francisco office to allow NSA agents to copy all incoming e-mails. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say the declaration, and public statements by government officials, revealed a “dragnet” surveillance program that indiscriminately scooped up messages and customer records.

The Justice Department said Friday that government agents monitored only communications in which “a participant was reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.” But proving that the surveillance program did not sweep in ordinary phone customers would require “disclosure of highly classified NSA intelligence sources and methods,” the department said.

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.”

In other words, just trust us.

Once again, it’s change we can believe in !

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2 Comments

  1. And again I say, whether it’s right, moral, or ethical, or not (it’s not); it is both legal, and constitutional.

    One of my first (and longest) posts on this blog was an analysis of the legality and constitutionality of the wiretapping regime as disclosed.

    Comment by Chris — April 8, 2009 @ 8:39 am
  2. I have a question to ask, stated in the most respectful, least sarcastic of tones:

    Does that ruling by the courts and statements by the new admin really actually surprise anyone?

    Is there really anyone who actually expected this administration to actually, you know, change?

    Comment by Merf — April 11, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

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