Hope and Change: Obama protects wiretap program secrets
posted at 8:55 am on February 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
For over three years, since the New York Times exposed an NSA surveillance program that tracked conversations from suspected terrorist phones to points within the US, the Left has pilloried the Bush administration for “shredding” the Constitution. Early in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, he made that a central reason why America needed Hope and Change. Eventually, however, Obama voted for the FISA language that essentially made the program explicitly legal, but promised to make significant changes to it once elected.
Now that he’s President, however, the perspective looks a little different:
President Obama’s administration is moving aggressively to protect what the government insists are “state secrets” from a Bush-era wiretapping program.
Justice Department lawyers filed an emergency motion Friday with a federal appeals court in an effort to block a lower court’s order that the government must show lawyers for the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation a copy of a document indicating that the group’s communications were being intercepted. The document has been the subject of a running legal battle since the papers were accidentally sent to attorneys for the group in 2004 and subsequently retrieved. …
The government wants the wiretapping lawsuit thrown out on the basis of the state secrets privilege, but a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the privilege is overruled by a law Congress wrote, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
It’s an interesting case. Many of the lawsuits filed against telecoms in relation to the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program got tossed for lack of standing; the plaintiffs had no proof that their communications had been surveilled. The DoJ helpfully handed that proof to Al-Haramain during discovery when they accidentally released a “Top Secret-Compartmented” document to their legal team. The government wants to unring the bell here, and the judge has thus far not allowed them to do it.
If Obama meant what he said on the campaign trail, one would expect him to side with Al-Haramain. After all, he spent a great deal of time talking about how the Bush administration ran roughshod over the rights of Americans and American residents with his NSA program. Wouldn’t that include Al-Haramain in this instance, according to Obama’s own construct?
Now, suddenly, Obama seems to appreciate the need for “state secrets” and surveillance on international communications involving suspected terrorists. That suits me fine, as I think the TSP program was on solid ground from the beginning, but it’s more than a little hypocritical for the Obama administration to suddenly switch sides and support the Bush position without so much as an “oops”. It certainly seems that Obama has endorsed the Bush policies that he once criticized in harsh terms, a remarkable turnaround for someone in office only a month.
How does that Hope and Change feel now, Obama voters? Anyone ready to give President Bush an overdue apology?