Monday, December 23, 2013

White House tries to prevent judge from ruling on NSA surveillance

The Obama administration has filed papers to prevent a federal judge from issuing a ruling on whether the government's warrantless surveillance programs are constitutional. The government argued, that despite recent leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, further revelation's about the NSA's surveillance and data collection programs could put the government's security at risk if they were divulged in court, he wrote. "Disclosure of this still-classified information regarding the scope and operational details of N.S.A. intelligence activities implicated by plaintiffs' allegations could be expected to cause extremely grave damage to the national security of the United States," Clapper wrote. Arguing that it can continue to assert its state secrets privilege to block information from being used in a court, the Justice Department has asked US District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White to dismiss the case without ruling on whether the programs violated the First or Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. The court had earlier ordered the government to evaluate how Snowden's leaks had affected it invocation of the state secrets privilege. Plaintiffs in the cases, including the Electronic Freedom Foundation, have until late January to respond. "The government seems to be trying to reset the clock to before June 2013 or even December 2005," EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said in a statement. "But the American people know that their communications are being swept up by the government under various NSA programs. The government's attempt to block true judicial review of its mass, untargeted collection of content and metada by pretending that the basic facts about how the spying affects the American people are still secret is both outrageous and disappointing." The filing comes on the heels of another federal judge's ruling earlier this week that the NSA's data collection activities were likely unconstitutional...more

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