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White House Invokes Privilege in Spy Cases


May 27, 6:04 PM (ET)


NEW YORK (AP) - The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets.


In papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the legality of the spying program without disclosing classified information that could be of value to suspected terrorists.


National Intelligence Director John Negroponte invoked the state secrets privilege on behalf of the administration, writing that disclosure of such information would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.


The administration laid out some of its supporting arguments in classified memos that were filed under seal.


The government's motion, widely anticipated, involves two cases challenging an NSA program that allows investigators to eavesdrop on Americans who communicate with people outside the country suspected of terrorist ties.


In New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights has asked a judge to stop the program, saying it was an abuse of presidential power. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a similar lawsuit in Detroit.


For decades, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been required to seek court approval before using electronic surveillance on Americans. That was not done by the NSA in the program at issue, but President Bush has said the eavesdropping was made legal by a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the administration's motion "undemocratic."


Ample safeguards could be put in place to allow the case to continue without disclosing classified information, he said. The center has also argued that the court already has enough information to decide whether the program was legal.


"The Bush administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument," Kadidal said in a written statement. "Can the president tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the president accountable for breaking the law."


Justice Department attorneys said in their legal brief that the legality of the president's actions could only be properly judged by understanding "the specific threat facing the nation and the particular actions taken by the president to meet that threat."


"That understanding is not possible without revealing to the very adversaries we are trying to defeat what we know about them and how we are proceeding to stop them," they wrote.

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ACLU Tries to Stop Warrantless Wiretapping


Jun 12, 10:52 AM (ET)


DETROIT (AP) - Critics of the government's domestic surveillance program claim it violates the rights of free speech and privacy. The Bush administration says it is necessary and legal.


Both sides were in court Monday to argue the constitutionality of the program, with the American Civil Liberties Union seeking an immediate halt to warrantless wiretapping.


The Bush administration has asked U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to dismiss the lawsuit, saying litigation would jeopardize state secrets.


The administration has acknowledged eavesdropping on Americans' international communications without first seeking court approval. President Bush has said the eavesdropping is legal because of a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that authorized him to use force in the fight against terrorism.


The parties in the ACLU lawsuit, who include journalists, scholars and lawyers, say the program has hampered their ability to do their jobs because it has made international contacts, such as sources and potential witnesses, wary of sharing information over the phone.


Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said the administration's arguments in defense of the program don't square with the Constitution.


"The framers never intended to give the president the power to ignore the laws of Congress even during wartime and emergencies," she said last week during a conference call with reporters.


She said no state secrets need to be revealed to litigate the case because the administration has already acknowledged the program exists. The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a similar lawsuit on the eavesdropping in federal court in New York.

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  • 2 months later...

Some good news on the warrantless wire-tap front. However, the NSA's data-mining program can still go forward. Did you ever wonder what would happen if the government started mining YOUR data?



Judge Finds NSA Program Unconstitutional


Aug 17, 11:32 PM (ET)




DETROIT (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday struck down President Bush's warrantless surveillance program, saying it violated the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.


U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit is the first judge to rule on the legality of the National Security Agency's program, which the White House says is a key tool for fighting terrorism that has already stopped attacks.


"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.


The administration said it would appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.


"We're going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington.


White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling." He said the program carefully targets communications of suspected terrorists and "has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives."


Taylor ordered an immediate halt to the program, but the government said it would ask for a stay of that order pending appeal. The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, said it would oppose a stay but agreed to delay enforcement of the injunction until Taylor hears arguments Sept. 7.


The ACLU filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which monitors international phone calls and e-mails to or from the U.S. involving people the government suspects have terrorist links.


The ACLU says the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to grant warrants for such surveillance, gave the government enough tools to monitor suspected terrorists.


The government argued that the NSA program is well within the president's authority but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.


The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule. The administration has decried leaks that led to a New York Times report about the existence of the program last year.


Taylor, a Carter appointee, said the government appeared to argue that the program is beyond judicial scrutiny.


"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."


Administration officials said the program is essential to national security. The Justice Department said it "is lawful and protects civil liberties."


Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said eliminating it would put the nation in a "very, very weakened position."


"Without programs that allow us to do surveillance of communications and transactions in real time ... it will be as if in the Cold War we had dropped all the radar," he said in Los Angeles.


In Washington, Republicans expressed hope that the decision would be overturned, while many Democrats praised the ruling.


"It is disappointing that a judge would take it upon herself to disarm America during a time of war," Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.


West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision shows the executive branch needs more external reviews.


"The administration is wrongly convinced that it can run the country without Congress or oversight. This is their tragic failure, and the courts understand it," Rockefeller said.


ACLU executive director Anthony Romero called Taylor's opinion "another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration's legal strategy in the war on terror."


"At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms the system of checks and balances that's necessary to our democracy," he told reporters.


One of the plaintiffs in the case, Detroit immigration attorney Noel Saleh, said the NSA program had made it difficult to represent his clients, some of whom the government accuses of terrorist connections.


Saleh, a leader in Michigan's large Arab-American community, also said he believes many conversations between people in the community and relatives in Lebanon were monitored in recent weeks as people here sought news of their families amid the violence in the Middle East.


"People have the right to be concerned about their family, to check on the welfare of their family and not be spied on by the government," he said.


Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, is championing a compromise that would allow Bush to submit the surveillance program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a one-time test of its constitutionality. But under Thursday's ruling congressional approval would not be enough, said Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University School of Law.


Taylor suggests in her ruling that the program "would violate the Constitution even if Congress authorized it," Pildes said. "Until Congress actually addresses these questions, I would expect most appellate courts to be extremely reluctant to address many of the questions this judge was willing to weigh in on."


While siding with the ACLU on the surveillance issue, Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the group over NSA data-mining of phone records. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation would jeopardize state secrets.


The lawsuit alleged that the NSA "uses artificial intelligence aids to search for keywords and analyze patterns in millions of communications at any given time." Multiple lawsuits have been filed related to data-mining against phone companies, accusing them of improperly turning over records to the NSA.


The data-mining was only a small part of the Detroit suit, said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director and the lead attorney on the case.

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When even Fox News begins turning on Bush (and its commentators have been on his case, too) you know that a gigantic fissure has opened in that anus known as the American Right. There's about to be blood on the floor. If the Republiscum lose one of the houses of Congress, and investigations are started, there'll be a degree of panic resembling that of the French nobility during the Reign of Terror. All that'll be missing is a guillotine set up on the mall, and a new Mme. Defarge calling out "Next!" to an endless line of GOP criminals. . .

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  • 4 months later...

>>> ACLU Tries to Stop Warrantless Wiretapping



>> The operative word is "tries".


>> Aint gonna happen.



> I'll let them know.



Well whaddaya know? Looks like the Bush administration is backing down on its unconstitutional Terrorist Surveillance Program after all, putting the power back with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Good for the ACLU, and good for us!




Secret Court to Govern Wiretapping Plan


Jan 17, 2:34 PM (ET)



WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department, easing a Bush administration policy, said Wednesday it has decided to give an independent body authority to monitor the government's controversial domestic spying program.


In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this authority has been given to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and that it already has approved one request for monitoring the communications of a person believed to be linked to al-Qaida or an associated terror group.


The court orders approving collection of international communications - whether it originates in the United States or abroad - was issued Jan. 10, according to the two-page letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa.


"As a result of these orders, any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Gonzales wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.


"Accordingly, under these circumstances, the President has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires," the attorney general wrote.


The Bush administration secretly launched the surveillance program in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people suspected by the government of having terrorist links.


The White House said it is satisfied that the new guidelines meet its concerns about national security.


"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has put together its guidelines and its rules and those have met administration concerns about speed and agility when it comes to responding to bits of intelligence where we may to be able to save American lives," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.


Snow said he could not explain why those concerns could not have been addressed before the program was started. He said the president will not reauthorize the present program because the new rules will serve as guideposts.

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Walter Mondale said in an interview this week that the current administration at the highest level, i.e. Bush and Cheney were untruthful and acting illegally. This is quite unprecedented for a former VP to criticize a successor to the office. And coming after Gerald Ford's comments that were disclosed postumously criticizing the President's decision to go to war in Iraq, you have to wonder who exactly is supporting Bush anymore.

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>Walter Mondale said in an interview this week that the

>current administration at the highest level, i.e. Bush and

>Cheney were untruthful and acting illegally. This is quite

>unprecedented for a former VP to criticize a successor to the

>office. And coming after Gerald Ford's comments that were

>disclosed postumously criticizing the President's decision to

>go to war in Iraq, you have to wonder who exactly is

>supporting Bush anymore.



While support for the war is certainly dwindling among Republicans,

it is not suprising that Walter Mondale, a center to left of center Democrat, would oppose the war and speak out against the abuses of power of the members of the opposition party who are controlling the executive branch. Al Gore, also a former VP, has spoken out against the actions of the members of the executive branch and the manner in which they have behaved, as have most Democrats.

At 79, Mr. Mondale is probably beyond the point of caring much what other people think of his ideas. To me it is sade that because he is 79, few care much what Mr. Mondale thinks. I would venture to say that the vast majority of Americans could not correctly name Mr. Mondale as a former Vice President, a former Senator and former nominee for President of the US, although some might recognize him from his TV commercials. Though I think Bob Dole is the gold standard when it comes to politicians with commercial clout. I reflect fondly upon Mr. Dole's Viagra commercials. Something about Bob just exuded a sexuality that Fritz could never really challenge. LOL

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White House, Cheney's Office, Subpoenaed


Jun 27, 1:48 PM (ET)





WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday for documents relating to President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program.


Also named in subpoenas signed by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties have until July 18 to comply, according to a statement by Leahy's office.


The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal disputes within the administration over the legality of the program.


"Our attempts to obtain information through testimony of administration witnesses have been met with a consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection," Leahy said in his cover letters for the subpoenas. "There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee."


Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply.


"We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation."


The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court.


Leahy's committee and its counterpart in the House have issued the subpoenas as part of a sweeping look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors, for political reasons. The House and Senate Judiciary committees previously had subpoenaed Miers, one-time legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, in that probe.


But with senators of both parties already concerned about the constitutionality of the administration's efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee shifted to the broader question of Gonzales' stewardship of Justice and, in particular, his willingness to permit the wiretapping program.


Piquing the committee's interest was vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House's effort to override the Justice Department's objections to the program in 2004.


Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to get Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery.


Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, to whom Ashcroft had temporarily shifted the power of his office during his illness.


The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes to the classified program that the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it.


The fight was one of the most bitter disputes of the Bush presidency and questions remain over whether the program tramples people's civil rights. The administration says the program is crucial to preventing more terrorist attacks.

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