Monday, June 12, 2006

Warrantless Eavesdrop Program Goes to Court

As the LATimes reports, the NSA's warrantless surveillance project will be the subject of a federal court hearing in Detroit today, as part of a suit brought by a coalition of groups and individuals including the ACLU, the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, author James Bamford, and others.

From the Times article: "The suit in Detroit, like one filed in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights, asserts that the NSA's eavesdropping program has violated free-speech and privacy rights and has had a chilling effect on the communications of potential surveillance targets. None of the plaintiffs have offered proof they were spied on. Rather, they maintain that the simple existence of the program has impeded their ability to perform their jobs as journalists and lawyers."

The Justice Department, not surprisingly, wants the Detroit and New York cases thrown out for violating the so-called "state secrets" doctrine, while the complainants argue that public statements about the program by top Administration officials should allow the suit to proceed. US District judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that she could hear the ACLU's motion before taking up the question of whether the "state secrets" doctrine should be invoked; a hearing to determine that will occur on July 10 (although DoJ has asked again that the judge respond to that question at today's hearing).

If this case were to somehow go forward, which is highly unexpected (as the article makes clear, invocation of "state secrets" seems to be the nail in the coffin, since judges have been very unwilling to overrule that claim by the executive branch), it would involve an incredibly important series of rulings and arguments. What happens today in Detroit will be very interesting indeed, and I'll keep an eye on things as we move forward.

Also today, watch the Supreme Court - we could see some major end-of-term rulings this morning.


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