It appears that the Obama Administration's Department of Justice has not only embraced some of the more ridiculous claims of the Bush Administration when it comes to the wiretapping and surveillance of domestic communications, but has actually gone even further.
Glenn Greenwald lays it out like this:
...EFF -- which was the lead counsel in the lawsuits against the telecoms -- thereafter filed suit, in October, 2008, against the Bush administration and various Bush officials for illegally spying on the communications of Americans. They were seeking to make good on the promise made by Congressional Democrats: namely, that even though lawsuits against telecoms for illegal spying will not be allowed any longer, government officials who broke the law can still be held accountable.
But late Friday afternoon, the Obama DOJ filed the government's first response to EFF's lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush's NSA program. But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the "state secrets" privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and (2) a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim of breathtaking scope -- never before advanced even by the Bush administration -- that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is "willful disclosure" of the illegally intercepted communications.
This is absolutely unacceptable. Obama and his staff have already done a lot of good for this country, rolling back many of the more egregious pieces of legislation passed under Bush and pushing for many progressive programs, but that by no means buys them a free pass to get crazy in other areas.
And crazy they've gotten, in terms of basically reaffirming and actually expanding upon every single one of the Bush DoJ's radical secrecy powers.
There is simply no reason whatsoever that the government needs to be or should be allowed to spy on its own citizens without warrant. The sheer volume of information gathered through such means alone is grounds for criticism, as no amount of man or computing power could possibly sort through it all to find the potentially relevant tidbits. But even more important is the issue of legality and civil rights. We the People have the right not to be eavesdropped on at the whim of government.
And yet? That's exactly what they have been, and likely will continue to be doing. The insult to injury is that the government is now saying that we have no recourse to hold them accountable for these illegal actions. It's essentially the DoJ giving American citizens the ol' Scalia va fanculo.
Greenwald again sums it up well:
Thus: how the U.S. government eavesdrops on its citizens is too secret to allow a court to determine its legality. We must just blindly accept the claims from the President's DNI that we will all be endangered if we allow courts to determine the legality of the President's actions. Even confirming or denying already publicly known facts -- such as the involvement of the telecoms and the massive data-mining programs -- would be too damaging to national security. Why? Because the DNI says so. It is not merely specific documents, but entire lawsuits, that must be dismissed in advance as soon as the privilege is asserted because "its very subject matter would inherently risk or require the disclosure of state secrets."Couldn't have said it better myself. Heck, even Keith Olbermann is deeply displeased with the move, and he's been one of Obama's biggest cheerleaders. You should know you've messed up pretty royally when you've pissed off such a loyal supporter.
What's being asserted here by the Obama DOJ is the virtually absolute power of presidential secrecy, the right to break the law with no consequences, and immunity from surveillance lawsuits so sweeping that one can hardly believe that it's being claimed with a straight face. It is simply inexcusable for those who spent the last several years screaming when the Bush administration did exactly this to remain silent now or, worse, to search for excuses to justify this behavior.
So are we going to sit back and continue to allow this sort of gross violation of our rights to go unchecked? I sure as hell hope not. Thankfully, we've got organizations like the EFF and ACLU getting our backs, but it's going to take all of us standing up and speaking out, working to hold the appropriate people appropriately accountable, to make the big difference.
Otherwise, we have no right to call ourselves a democracy.