Saturday, January 27, 2007

You Could Make This Up

If you were to try to write a novel about it, you'd have to look no farther than Kafka's The Trial. The NYT tells about two cases, one in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals with the ACLU challenging wiretaps outside FISA and the other in Portland, OR a civil case before Federal District Judge Garr King asking for damages for the charity al Haramain Islamic Foundation for wiretapping.

Justice Dept has asked that the Cincinnati case be ruled moot since the Dept is now 'operating' under FISA (oh sure, but we don't get to know how), that hasn't been ruled on yet. The odd part, is how the Justice Dept is operating, they are filing their court papers, in their own building, filing with themselves. The court isn't very happy.

The Oregon case is weirder still. The FBI accidentally sent the charity's lawyers a copy of the wiretap authorization, copies of that then went to several people in the US and some in foreign countries. The case resulted from that document. The FBI demanded the copies back and got them from the US but made no attempt to get back those out of country. The government even "scrubbed" the computer of a lawyer. Somehow a copy was filed with the court by plaintiffs, the FBI went to the judge and demanded it back, he refused, they insisted, it's filed in a Bureau safe room. The plaintiffs are not allowed to use the document in court. In fact, the government took the position that their memories belonged to the government. The Judge finally ruled that the document was out, memories in. One of the government's lawyers refused to disclose to the judge whether he had a certain security clearance saying that was classified, the judge invoked Alice in Wonderland. When Judge King wanted to know who the document was secret from considering how it had gotten around, Justice said, "form anybody who hasn't seen it." I kid you not.

In BushCo-land life is a strange thing, things the Constitution says the government can't take away get taken away because the Constitution didn't say specifically you have them, secrecy is the order of the day unless it's your own privacy that's bothered, no words mean what dictionaries say they mean, only what the Decider says they mean, and the Cheshire Cat is a terrorist. I'd just about bet that if you had an internet pal in Saudi Arabia you could get a copy of this super secret document, the one the lawyers can't look at, but you could never sell a novel based on it, everyone would say the premise is stupid. Life in these United States...


Ed Bickford said...

For those following the Al-Haramain case, it has been transferred to U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco.

In an article from last year on, "DOJ Losing Ground In Wiretap Fight" is the explanation:

"Walker is presiding over the class action Hepting v. AT&T... the suit accuses the telecom company of illegally providing the NSA with the contents of its customers' communications... By this time, the Hepting case was just one of what would become dozens of class actions across the country against AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and other telecom companies... Since many of the suits were similar, a panel of federal judges (known as the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation) sought to consolidate them in a single court... the government and phone companies wanted the cases moved to Washington because the appellate court that oversees that district court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has become increasingly conservative... Not all of the plaintiffs' lawyers supported consolidating the suits. But of those who did, most wanted the cases moved to Walker's court in San Francisco, which is overseen by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, long known as the country's most liberal. In a setback for the government and the phone companies, on Aug. 9 the panel agreed with the plaintiffs.

Chuck Butcher said...

Now lets see just what limits BushCo is willing to go to. I believe the case in Portland before King will stay there for the time being, since it is the govt. that is being sued in that case.

I wouldn't want to be a phone company.

Ed Bickford said...

Hmmm, you are a provider of communication services, Chuck...

I found an article on the Oregonian (wince) website, "Wiretap suit joins others in Bay Area" from last month which identifies the Al-Haramain case as one of those being transferred to the court in S. F. Of course it left me with an information deficit, so I searched out the article I quoted above.

Chuck Butcher said...

That's interesting, I will have to look more deeply.

Ah, communications services, but I won't give 'em squat so youse safe.