NSA Memos on Warrantless Surveillance Kept in Dark

     (CN) – Ten Justice Department memos related to warrantless wiretapping under President George W. Bush are protected by privilege, a federal judge ruled.
     The Terrorist Surveillance Program, which Bush authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, allowed the National Security Agency to intercept international communications without a warrant, if there were reasonable grounds to believe one party was affiliated with a terrorist organization.
     Bush’s 2007 announcement that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would supervise further surveillance ended the program.
     The extent and scope of government surveillance on telephone communications for these six years is unknown, and details of the program remain shrouded in secrecy.
     Civil rights groups have repeatedly sought to challenge the warrantless program, but their failure to pinpoint whom the government targeted left them unable to establish standing.
     The American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Privacy Information Center failed again Monday in their attempt to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request for Department of Justice memoranda related to the wiretapping program.
     After an in camera review, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington said he was “satisfied with the department’s decisions to withhold” the memoranda because they were properly classified as “confidential, pre-decisional legal advice protected by the deliberative-process and attorney-client communications privileges.”
     Lamberth compared the groups’ request to that of the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a Justice Department memo prepared for the FBI, which the D.C. Circuit rejected in January.
     “This court sees no principled way to distinguish the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion in the Electronic Frontier Foundation case from the ten OLC memoranda in this case,” the four-page opinion concludes.

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