No surprise to some, but a complete surprise to others I’m sure:
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 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 promise of transparency has been the most consistent casualty of the Obama administration. No bills thus far have been posted on the web 5 days prior to signing. The Treasury Department refuses to disclose how TARP money has been spent. And now this – something, as the EFF points out, which was unceasingly criticized by candidate Obama when the Bush administration was in power.
Now, that said, perhaps what the Obama Justice Department has discovered is argument the Bush administration was making at the time were valid. The case in question is an extension of the September case:
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.
It would appear the Obama Justice Department has examined the case and the evidence and, amazingly, has come to the conclusion that what the Bush administration claimed – that the taps were aimed only at al Qaeda and/or affiliated organizations – was correct, and is now defending that. They’ve also concluded that disclosure of the information involved in the case would be harmful to national security.
What I now wonder is if “secrecy” suddenly is ok? And since it is the Obama administration – the increasingly opaque Obama administration – saying the taps were used only on bad guys, are they now ok? And will that be enough to mollify those on the left who were so outraged when the Bush administration was accused of doing all of this?
And finally, I wonder if the NYT will devote the time and space to this defense of what it termed “illegal wiretapping” in the past as it did when it surfaced during the Bush administration?
Al Gore may have ‘invented’ it, but the Congress may give Obama control of it. The report is from Mother Jones:
Should President Obama have the power to shut down domestic Internet traffic during a state of emergency?
Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think so. On Wednesday they introduced a bill to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor—an arm of the executive branch that would have vast power to monitor and control Internet traffic to protect against threats to critical cyber infrastructure. That broad power is rattling some civil libertarians.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF) gives the president the ability to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any “critical” information network “in the interest of national security.” The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president.
The bill does not only add to the power of the president. It also grants the Secretary of Commerce “access to all relevant data concerning [critical] networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access.” This means he or she can monitor or access any data on private or public networks without regard to privacy laws.
So you have an unelected Secretary of Commerce able to access all of the data on the private or public networks without regard to privacy laws – yeah, no possibility of abuse there, huh?
The bill could undermine the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), says CDT senior counsel Greg Nojeim. That law, enacted in the mid ’80s, requires law enforcement seek a warrant before tapping in to data transmissions between computers.
“It’s an incredibly broad authority,” Nojeim says, pointing out that existing privacy laws “could fall to this authority.”
It will be interesting to see if we hear the same sort of outcry from the left pertaining to warrants as we heard about FISA if this passes.
“We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs—from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records—the list goes on,” Rockefeller said in a statement. Snowe echoed her colleague, saying, “if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina.”
And apparently the possibility of a “cyber-Katrina” means that any Constitutional right you may have to privacy can be waived.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no real power of enforcement. It is one of those bodies that the “one world” crowd managed to get formed and funded in hope of creating the penultimate judicial body that can adjudicate criminal complaints against political and military leaders anywhere in the world. It depends on voluntary compliance with its indictments and voluntary submission to its rule. As you might imagine, that’s not as forthcoming as its planners thought it might be – especially among the nations most in need of straightening up. Such as Sudan:
blockquote>Thousands of people protested in Khartoum on Friday after preachers condemned an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudan’s president on charges of war crimes in Darfur.
It was the third day of demonstrations after the Hague-based court announced it was indicting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.
While everyone agrees that what is happening in Darfur is a crime against humanity, it is a crime that the world has allowed to continue for almost 20 years. So one has to wonder, other than a bit of moral preening by the ICC, what utility issuing an arrest warrant for the head of state of Sudan might have. Will it actually facilitate his arrest and end the problem in Darfur? Will it improve the conditions and security for those in danger in Darfur? After all, if it is the conditions and the plight of those in Darfur that the ICC is using as the basis of its criminal complaint, wouldn’t you hope that such a move would improve that situation rather than worsen it?
As it turns out, it does “none of the above”. The issuance of the arrest warrant by the ICC has instead caused all the aid agencies working to save the refugees to be thrown out of the region on suspicion they’re passing evidence of crimes on to the ICC.
Of the 76 NGOs in Darfur with which the U.N. is working, the 13 that have been expelled account for half the aid that is distributed in the region, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Their departure would leave 1.1 million people without food, 1.5 million without medical care and more than one million without drinking water, she told the briefing.
“It will be very, very challenging for both the remaining humanitarian organizations and for the government of Sudan to fill this gap,” she said.
Of course the argument might be “we should confront evil where ever we find it” and I don’t disagree. But issuing a toothless arrest warrant that only agitates the person named to the point that over a million people are placed in peril doesn’t exactly live up to the word “confront” in my book. It is a moral “feel good” activity which may spur an immoral reaction beyond anyone’s control. And that seems to be the case here.
It is one thing to issue the sort of warrant the ICC has issued and then take the action necessary to serve and enforce it. But in the absence of that, what is the utility of issuing such a warrant without such an enforcement mechanism, especially given the range of possible negative reactions and outcomes? Whatever happens now to those million people at risk in Darfur, as a result of the ejection of the aid agencies so key to their survival, rests squarely in the lap of the ICC. I’m not arguing that al-Bashir isn’t a murdering criminal or that the world shouldn’t do what is necessary to stop his crimes against the people in Darfur. But what shouldn’t be done is hand him a reason to further endanger those people by issuing unenforceable warrants that make the rest of the world feel morally superior but actually worsens the threat against those who can’t defend themselves.
Well while you consider that, this from a Jake Tapper story today:
The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc..
The case involves five men who claim to have been victims of extraordinary rendition — including current Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, another plaintiff in jail in Egypt, one in jail in Morocco, and two now free. They sued a San Jose Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the flight-planning company of aiding the CIA in flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured.
That’s sure to disappoint the Economist which, in a gushing editorial written a couple of days after Obama’s electoral victory said:
America will certainly change under Mr Obama; the world of extraordinary rendition and licensed torture should thankfully soon be gone.
And, as with most things, this is sure to surprise some liberal blogs who recently assured themselves that the Obama administration wasn’t going to support extraordinary rendition. After claiming the LA Times got punked they soothed themselves into believing that if the CIA isn’t operating the facility then there’s no harm or no foul. If it is a foreign intelligence service operating the facility in a foreign land to which the CIA turns over prisoners, well, then, that’s just not the same thing, you see. But, of course, it’s simply a different shade of gray, isn’t it?
BTW, I believe the questioning of Leon Panetta should have disabused our liberal friends who claim the Bush administration’s use of rendition is any different than the Obama administrations use of that belief.
Should any doubt remain that there may be a difference, Tapper adds:
A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn’t changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.
How does that go – everybody now – “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.
This is not going to please civil libertarians and human rights activists who had hoped the Obama administration would allow the lawsuit to proceed.
Not really. Like the bunch linked above, they’ll simply try to spin it.
Hope and change.