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lquadland10 (< 20)

Change we can believe in. Obama administration goes to bat for secrecy



February 12, 2009 – Comments (4) | RELATED TICKERS: GLD , ABX , AUY

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, February 12, 2009

(02-12) 18:16 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second time this week, the Obama administration has gone to court in San Francisco to argue for secrecy in defending a terrorism policy crafted under George W. Bush - in this case, wiretapping that President Obama denounced as a candidate.

In papers filed Wednesday night, the new Justice Department asked a federal judge to suspend action on a suit challenging the wiretapping program, arguing that proceedings would jeopardize national security. Government lawyers also said the administration, not the courts, controls access to classified material at the heart of the case.

In combative tones, the lawyers told Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that they would ask a federal appeals court to put the case on hold unless he acts by 3 p.m. Friday.

The dispute involves Walker's Jan. 5 order to allow plaintiffs who say the government illegally wiretapped their phones to read a classified surveillance document that could confirm the assertion and avoid dismissal of their suit. Lawyers for the Obama administration say the judge's decision "presents a clear-cut conflict between the court and the executive branch."

"They have drawn a line in the sand between the executive and the judiciary, saying, 'You do not control these documents, we do,' " said Jon Eisenberg, lawyer for Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which filed the suit.

The government inadvertently sent the classified document to Al-Haramain in 2005. It reportedly showed that the now-defunct Islamic charity had been wiretapped before the government designated it a terrorist organization.

Al-Haramain returned the document at the request of the government, which then argued in court that without the document, the group could not prove it had been wiretapped.

Numerous groups brought similar cases after Bush acknowledged that he had ordered the National Security Agency in late 2001 to intercept phone calls and e-mails between U.S. citizens and suspected foreign terrorists without congressional or court approval. But only Al-Haramain's case survives.

Obama attacked the surveillance program as a presidential candidate, promising "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens" in an August 2007 speech. His future attorney general, Eric Holder, said in June 2008 that Bush had defied federal law by authorizing the program.

The new Justice Department filing, which elaborated on arguments by the same lawyers under the Bush administration, addressed only the need to freeze the lawsuit and keep information secret and did not discuss the legality of the surveillance program. But if the department's position is upheld, Al-Haramain's suit will be dismissed.

Department spokesman Charles Miller confirmed that the brief represented the views of the new administration and its attorney general.

On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer told the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that the Obama administration endorsed a Bush argument that a suit over the CIA's rendition program endangers state secrets and should be dismissed. The five plaintiffs in that suit say a San Jose subsidiary of Jeppesen Dataplan, a flight-planning company, helped the CIA transport them to foreign nations for torture.

In Al-Haramain's case, the appeals court ruled last year that the organization could not use any information it had seen in the classified document to prove it had been wiretapped. But Walker, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, said in his Jan. 5 ruling that the Islamic organization had presented enough evidence from public statements to show that it had probably been a target of the surveillance program.

The judge said he would examine the document in private, then make it available to Al-Haramain lawyers with security clearances so they could oppose dismissal of the suit.

The Justice Department contends Walker was wrong on two counts: that the material can be safely disclosed, even in private, and that an alleged surveillance victim can sue without government acknowledgement that wiretapping occurred. The department asked Walker to put the case on hold while it asks the Ninth Circuit to consider those issues.

Failing to do so could cause "grave harm to national security," government lawyers wrote.

Eisenberg, Al-Haramain's lawyer, said the filing was "disappointing to a great many people who have had much hope for change."

E-mail Bob Egelko at

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A congressional committee has approved US President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, Leon Panetta, clearing the way for his likely confirmation by the full Senate.

"Leon Panetta will mark a new beginning for the CIA as its next director," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement.

"He has the integrity, the drive and the judgment to ensure that the CIA fulfills its mission of producing information critical to our national security, without sacrificing our national values," Feinstein said after the committee backed Panetta for the spy agency post.

His nomination will next go to the Senate, where he is expected to easily win support.

Panetta, a White House chief of staff under former president Bill Clinton without direct experience in the intelligence world, made clear during hearings last week that he would break with controversial practices under the previous administration.

Panetta promised to uphold the law and to repair relations between Congress and the embattled agency, which has been castigated over flawed intelligence reports in the run-up to the Iraq war and controversial tactics in the "war on terror."

Panetta promised to uphold the law       If he does then we need a total withdraw of Iraq and Afghanistan.       But IMO he won't up hold the law of the constitution.





4 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On February 13, 2009 at 1:02 AM, devoish (81.87) wrote:

Restoring perfectly adequate FISA wiretapping guidlines going forward is one thing. Handling a case that disregarded FISA and established unconstitutional levels of Federal intrusion into private lives needs to be handled more carefully and slowly. It would not be a good thing if a terrorist who could have been caught without violating the Constitution were released because of the recklessness of the previous administration. Going forward there wll be Judicial review of wiretapping requests. It took GWB almost 600 days to begin breaking this law. Give the new administration a few weekends to fix it, ok? There's a lot going on and he has kept a quite a few campaign promises so far.

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#2) On February 13, 2009 at 1:43 AM, gman444 (28.18) wrote:

Here's the question that really gets me:   What has Obama learned that we don't know since he made those anti-wiretapping speaches?  I really don't have an answer to this, and I am not an advocate of GWB policies, but I do think the question has to be considered.

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#3) On February 13, 2009 at 8:44 AM, Gemini846 (34.81) wrote:

I think based on Obama's responses to a lot of things in his "first 100 days" that he had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went.

The problems with the social contract valueing individual liberty is what happens when a person or group performs an action that is in violation of the liberties of someone else. When two groups collide is where the state or judicial process must step in an arbitrate. This is why we have laws beyond "why can't everyone get along".

It seems obvious to many citizens that blowing up a building is a violation of many people's right to life and happiness. People that provided money or funds are generally considered in violation. What about someone who provided ideas, had a sloppy mouth after a few drinks et and set the concept in someone elses mind to act. Is he guilty?

Is there a difference in those things and me saying that the Federal Reserve should be abolished? Is there a framework to work out our issues? What happens when a person feels that framework doesn't exist or exists against them (discrimination based on color, gender or creed). Surely thier liberty to speak out on the issue must be protected.

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#4) On February 13, 2009 at 10:40 AM, lquadland10 (< 20) wrote:

I like Obama despite the fact the he is an 8th cousin to Chaney and Bush. It is his teem I don't trust.

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