Dec 082009
 
 December 8, 2009  Court, Govt Comments Off on EFF Submits Brief in Key State Secrets Privilege Case

Cindy Cohn writes:

EFF filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit’s en banc review of Mohamed v. Jeppesen, a case brought by the ACLU challenging the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the government’s argument that the case had to be dismissed at the outset due to the state secrets privilege. The panel decision is now being considered by a larger, en banc panel of the Court.

EFF notes that the government has made the same dangerous and overreaching state secrets arguments in the domestic warrantless wiretapping cases handled by EFF.

Read more on EFF.

Nov 102009
 
 November 10, 2009  Court, Featured News, Govt, Surveillance Comments Off on Obama administration tries to vacate adverse rulings

Kim Zetter of Threat Level reports on how the government’s motion to vacate prior rulings in Horn v. Huddle may seriously impact other pending cases such as al-Haramain v. Obama.

In Horn v. Huddle, the government settled a 15-year old lawsuit filed by a former DEA agent who claimed he was subjected to illegal eavesdropping. But as part of the settlement, Horn agreed not to oppose the government’s motion to vacate previous rulings in the case by the D.C. courts.

“The opinions will be a valuable resource for litigants and courts as these issues arise in other cases,” the lawyers wrote in their brief (.pdf) Friday.

[…]

The Justice Department is “willing to pay absolute top dollar [in the D.C. case] to get out from some very damaging opinions” says Jon Eisenberg, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Al-Haramain case. “They are desperate to make the decisions go away and to deprive me of the ability to cite those decisions in the future.”

Although district court opinions aren’t binding elsewhere, they are regularly published and cited in other cases.

The D.C. rulings could help convince the California court to let plaintiffs view and use the classified document in their case, Eisenberg says. He notes that the D.C. rulings could be particularly persuasive to the San Francisco judge in the Al-Haramain case because they come from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court until 2002, who is overseeing the coffee table case. The intelligence court is responsible for approving government requests for wiretaps and other types of surveillance in the U.S. in cases involving foreign spying and terrorism.

“When Judge Lamberth speaks on a matter of national security, people listen,” Eisenberg told Threat Level.

Read more on Threat Level.

Nov 052009
 
 November 5, 2009  Featured News, Govt, Laws, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on Two Battles Won: PATRIOT Reform AND State Secrets Reform Bills Pass House Committee

Kevin Bankston of EFF reports some good news in the House of Representatives:

After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers’ PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill’s reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.

Even better, the Committee kept going after it was finished with PATRIOT to consider Representative Nadler’s State Secret Protection Act (HR 984), which would reform the state secrets privilege that the government has repeatedly used to try and throw EFF’s warrantless wiretapping cases out of court. After an impassioned defense by Mr. Nadler, who described how the government has used the privilege like a “magic incantation” to cover-up wrongdoing and warned that state secrecy “is the greatest threat to liberty at present,” the bill passed with even better numbers than the PATRIOT bill, 18 to 12!

Read more on EFF.