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.

Sep 242009
 September 24, 2009  Court, Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on Bush’s wiretapping goes to court in S.F.

Bob Egelko reports:

After years of wrangling over legal procedures, the lawyer for a defunct Islamic charity laid out his case Wednesday that former President George W. Bush’s secret wiretapping program was illegal – an argument that an Obama administration attorney refused to discuss.

“May the president of the United States break the law in the name of national security? … We’re asking this court to say, ‘no,’ ” Jon Eisenberg, lawyer for the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, told a federal judge in San Francisco.


Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has rebuffed Bush and Obama administration requests to dismiss the suit, did not reveal his views on the legality of the program. But he told a government lawyer that Al-Haramain had presented strong evidence that it had been wiretapped and had the right to sue.

Read more on SFGate.  Paul Elias of Associated Press provides additional background on the case.

Court-related documents and files can be found on EFF’s site.

Photo credit:  Lea Suzuki/Chronicle

Aug 222009
 August 22, 2009  Court, Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on Feds invoke national secrets in wiretap case

The Obama administration, trying to derail a lawsuit over former President George W. Bush’s authority to wiretap Americans without court permission, has refused to take a position on the program’s legality and says a federal judge can’t decide that question because the crucial facts are national secrets.

A ruling on whether Bush exceeded his constitutional powers would be “an improper advisory opinion” because there’s no proof – without delving into confidential, off-limits evidence – that the government wiretapped the plaintiff in the suit, the Justice Department said late Thursday.

“Information protected by the state secrets privilege is necessary to litigate the matter,” government lawyers told Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco. Walker has scheduled a hearing Sept. 23 to decide whether to dismiss the suit or proceed to a ruling on whether the surveillance program was legal.

Read more on San Francisco Chronicle

Related: Court filing [pdf], courtesy of Threat Level.

Jul 182009
 July 18, 2009  Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on The NSA wiretapping story nobody wanted

They sometimes call national security the third rail of politics. Touch it and, politically, you’re dead.

The cliché doesn’t seem far off the mark after reading Mark Klein’s new book, “Wiring up the Big Brother Machine … and Fighting It.” It’s an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans.

Read the Robert McMillan of IDG News Services interview with Mark Klein. The interview includes some interesting discussion of the media’s response when Klein tried to get the story out, and I can see that I need to add Klein’s book to my summer reading list.