The National Security Agency has the role of its own oversight. And it recently reported that warrantless wiretapping is much more pervasive than previously claimed and that our intelligence gathering apparatus is not following the law passed by Congress last summer to regulate the intelligence community. The story, "NSA Broke New Eavesdropping Law," is from Wired - Threat Level (4/16/09).
The Obama administration is claiming broad state secrets privilege in the various court cases involving warrantless wiretapping filed since the passage of the law. "Justice [claims]: We invoked State Secrets only 'after careful consideration'," is the story from TPM Muckraker on (4/10/09). They are refusing to disclose "sensitive [sources and methods] information that would cause exceptional harm to national security." To quote further from the government's statement,
While the assertion of states secrets privilege is necessary to protect national security, the intelligence community's surveillance activities are designed and executed to comply fully with the laws protecting the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. There is a robust oversight system to ensure this compliance.
White House Counsel Greg Craig formerly served in the Clinton administration. Blogger emptywheel blames White House Counsel Greg Craig for much of the controversial position the administration has taken on the state secrets issue, and backgrounds how this latest claim arose in the al-Haramain lawsuit in the 9th Circuit over the Bush warrantless wiretapping program. "New and worse secrecy and immunity claims came the Obama Department of Justice," in the EEF court case against the government, Glenn Greenwald's April 6 post reports. Greenwald points out that one of the claims, that of "sovereign immunity" is "brand new " and has never before been asserted.
Congress wants to step in -- Greg Sargent, at The Plum Line, headlined in Memeorandum: "White House Mum On Legislation That Would Nix Bush "State Secrets Privilege." Several bloggers credit Sargent's work and picked it up and ran with it also: "The White House won't say whether it'll back an effort to roll back the state secrets privilege," says Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker. Nor is Vice President Biden talking about the recent reintroduction of a "state secrets" bill he sponsored last year. But Senator Russ Feingold had no such hesitation, making a formal statement that he is "troubled" by the DOJ position.
White House has "no comment." Daily Kos' "mcjoan" echoes concern at the "no comment" stance taken on the state secrets legislation, that would drastically limit the use of the state secrets privilege. Congressional Quarterly-Politics' David Nather reminded that "state secret claims [will] test Democrats' commitment to oversight."Glenn Greenwald linked to TPM's very good work on this story of how the Obama administration fell into lock step with the Bush administration on court case responses regarding warrantless wiretapping.
This issue is not going away. The courts will continue to struggle with the problems unnecessarily presented by the government's lawyers. And Congress will, hopefully, continue to assert its oversight responsibility via hearings and legislation. And citizens will continue to protest the erosion of our Fourth amendment rights. Stonewalling is only a stopgap.
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