Saturday, June 24, 2006


Because We Say So, That's Why

Here's a nice succinct version of the government's position in prosecuting terrorists: "We can do what we want and we don't gotta show you no stinking evidence."

Whenever somebody wants to actually see objective evidence, the government stonewalls them. I've mentioned this before. It isn't anything I grew up believing this country would do. Neither is a president and vice-president demanding even more secrecy, national ID cards, border fences, perpetual war for perpetual peace (maybe, sometime, we'll see), or any of the bullshit coming out of this government. Hell, I didn't even believe the Democrats would lick up every turd of that bullshit and smile about it... I was misinformed, yeah. We all were.

Government asserts "state secrets privilege" in surveillance case
6/23/2006, 7:33 p.m. PT
The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Justice Department says a lawsuit filed here against warrantless civilian surveillance must be dropped because revealing information about the program — even whether an organization was monitored — would damage national security.

In a memorandum released this week, the Justice Department said it was asserting "state secrets privilege" in a lawsuit filed by the now-defunct Oregon branch of Al-Haramain, an Islamic charity, and was asking that the case be dismissed.

According to the memo, "the very subject matter of this lawsuit — including whether any of the Plaintiffs was subject to such surveillance, and whether any such surveillance was lawful — implicates classified activities and information, the disclosure of which would be required or risked if Plaintiffs' claims were to be adjudicated."

The lawsuit alleges that the National Security Agency illegally wiretapped electronic communications between Al-Haramain directors in Saudi Arabia and the group's Washington, D.C., lawyers without a court order.

Earlier this year, Al-Haramain lawyers filed a classified document under seal that they say supports their claim that the government illegally intercepted phone calls.

The government acknowledged accidentally turning over the document to Al-Haramain lawyers in 2004. The court considered it so sensitive that U.S. District Judge Garr King ordered it stored at a federal facility in Seattle because the only repository secure enough in Portland was the office of the FBI, a defendant.

In April, King said the Islamic charity has a right to know the arguments the government is making, "to the extent it can be done without compromising national security interests."

The Justice Department said in its memo this week that the secrets privilege must get the "utmost deference" from courts.

Even revealing who is being watched, the memorandum said, could reveal what the government knows and permit terrorists to adjust their operations.

Steven Goldberg, a lawyer for the charity, said the government argument misses the point.

"The essence of our case is not to say that they should not be out there doing surveillance, to do what they need to do to prevent a terrorist attack," he said. "We have no problem with that. But if they do it, do it based on the law."

"No president has the right to ignore what Congress has set forth as the procedure to be followed," Goldberg said.

He said the "state secrets privilege" still requires courts to decide if it should be used in a particular case.

"We're developing our arguments," Goldberg said, adding that they hope to reply by July 11.

In their memo, federal attorneys call Al-Haramain a "designated terrorist entity." The U.S. Treasury seized Al-Haramain assets in 2004 pending an investigation into whether the charity was involved in terrorism after it was accused of sending money to Islamic fighters in Chechnya in violation of federal tax laws.

Al-Haramain officials and foundation attorneys have denied any wrongdoing, saying the defunct charity had simply operated a prayer house and distributed Islamic literature to prisoners.

Prosecutors dropped the tax charges against Al-Haramain last year, saying it was a waste of time because nothing remained of the foundation but its corporate shell.

Since The New York Times revealed the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program in December, several civil lawsuits have challenged the legality of the program.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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