Secret Decision By A Secret Court

The Electronic Frontier Foundationis doing its best to find out more about Chimpy’s unconstitutional eavesdropping.

A privacy rights group sued the Justice Department on Tuesday to try to pry loose a ruling by a secret court that the Bush administration says approved its clandestine wiretapping program.

The suit, if it succeeds, should answer an important question about the future of the program: whether the court will require individual warrants, with specific evidence, before allowing the government to intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and alleged terrorists in foreign countries.


A federal judge in Detroit declared the program unconstitutional in August, a ruling the administration has appealed. In San Francisco, another judge is considering more than 40 lawsuits accusing telecommunications companies of illegally collaborating with the program by allowing the National Security Agency to intercept messages and examine customer records.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco organization that represents AT&T customers in one of the lawsuits, sued Tuesday in Washington, D.C., seeking disclosure of a pivotal Jan. 10 ruling by a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The ruling’s existence was disclosed Jan. 17 by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the judge had approved the surveillance, after lengthy negotiations, and that the program was now operating under authority of the foreign intelligence court.

Gonzales did not say, however, whether the judge was requiring a warrant in each case or instead had given overall approval to the program. The attorney general has refused to make the order public, although the Justice Department sent copies to the federal judge in San Francisco and the appeals court reviewing the Detroit ruling.


By random draw, the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who resigned from the foreign intelligence court after the December 2005 disclosure that the administration had been conducting surveillance without court review.

2 thoughts on “Secret Decision By A Secret Court

  1. Let’s start with a presumption that if the Attorney General is refusing to make something public, that’s because it doesn’t support his characterization of it. Consider the “secret evidence” in the Holy Land case that turned out to undercut the prosecution’s main argument, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
    I suppose the judge couldn’t make the order public over the objection of the AG, though there is something frightening about the slide toward totalitarianism where you have secret orders that are passed by secret judges in secret courts and nobody seems to have any problem with this.

  2. No, Nora – why would anyone take any issue with George exercising his self-imposed limitless powers as however he feels like it while he rules our democractic government with complete disregard for the people?
    I see no problem there whatsoever.

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