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Friday, April 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Feds Challenged in Bid to Dismiss Wiretapping Suit

(CN) - The government can't use national security to justify its illegal wiretapping program, class-action attorneys argued in their bid to block the government from using the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed.

"The United States instituted a massive, criminal, domestic spying program that monitors millions of telephone and Internet communications of ordinary Americans," class counsel argued in a memo opposing the government's motion to dismiss.

The sweeping surveillance program was allegedly implemented under the previous Bush administration, in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The plaintiffs say the Obama administration, like its predecessor, wants the case dismissed on the basis that revealing details of the surveillance would endanger national security.

"In defendants' view, any illegal conduct, any unconstitutional conduct - no matter how many people if affects, no matter how violative it is of fundamental rights - cannot be stopped, or even revealed, so long as revelation of the conduct might harm national security," according to the memo filed in San Francisco Federal Court (original emphasis). "That is not, and cannot be, the law."

The plaintiffs rejected the government's claim to sovereign immunity under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as a "rehash of arguments already rejected by the Court."

"Even worse is the President's limitless assertion of power," the memo states.

"A secret program by the Executive to put a camera in every American's bedroom could not be revealed, if to reveal it might harm national security. A secret program by the Executive to abduct and torture Americans could not be revealed, challenged, much less stopped, if to reveal it might harm national security. The Executive simply offers no limiting principle - none - for its breathtaking extension of the state secrets privilege" (original emphasis).

Attorneys Illann Maazel and Matthew Brinckerhoff with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady asked court to deny the government's motion to dismiss "in its entirety."

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