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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Working overtime to save Dubya's ass on the NSA's illegal spying.

It's an old tradition here in the US: When the government wants to keep people from noticing that it's doing something shifty, it announces that shiftiness late on a Friday. That ensures that 'invconvenient' news doesn't make it onto most peoples' radars. And, of course, the best kind of Friday for burying news is the Friday before a long weekend.

True to form, lawyers for the Justice Department waited until late yesterday to file papers asking federal judges in two states to dismiss lawsuits aimed at the NSA's illegal domestic spying programs, ensuring that the news would get lost as And, of course, the reason the feds want the dismissal is 'national security.'

The lawsuits that are worrying Dubya's administration both ask the federal courts to order a halt to the NSA's domestic spying program on the grounds that the president had no constitutional authority to authorize wiretapping and eavesdropping without a court warrant. The New York suit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights; the one in Detroit by the American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups.

The Justice Department claims that if these two lawsuits are allowed to go forward, Dubya's administration wouldn't be able to show that the NSA's spying was legal without providing information that might aid suspected terrorists and cause 'exceptionally grave damage' to national security.

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 in hand to decide whether the spying program was legal, based on admissions the administration has already made about the effort.

"The Bush administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument," he 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.

The Dubya administration's moves to quash the two cases are no surprise given its other recent moves to keep the NSA program from being scrutinized by outsiders. Only a few days before USA Today broke the story about how US phone companies were providing records of domestic phone calls to the NSA, Dubya gave national intelligence directory John Negroponte the authority to let companies that cooperate with the feds on national security matters keep that cooperation out of their legal and financial records. And in another move, the Justice Department denied security clearances to its own ethics investigators in order to keep them from examining how department lawyers decided to put their stamp of approval on the NSA's spying program.

All of which leaves us with the question: If the NSA's spying program is so legal and so necessary, why is Dubya's administration doing its utmost to keep anyone from learning anything about that program — and especially to keep the courts from deciding any cases involving NSA spying?

Inquiring magpies want to know.

You can find more info on the Center for Constitutional Rights' lawsuit here, and on the ACLU's lawsuit here.

Via AP and CBS News.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:42 PM | Get permalink




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