The government said that a court case challenging the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program could not proceed because of state secrets. The federal judge looked at the secret government data which they said would support its claim of the state secrets privilege. And then he said they were full of crap and denied the state secrets privilege.
“To defer to a blanket assertion of secrecy here would be to abdicate that duty, [to decide matters brought before the court] particularly because the very subject matter of this litigation has been so publicly aired,” U.S. District Court judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his decision (PDF). “The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one. But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued AT&T, alleging that the company illegally participated in the terrorist surveillance program by turning over data to the NSA without proper warrants.
EFF staff activist Derek Slater called the ruling a “critical victory” in challenging the government’s invasion of civil liberties of millions of innocent Americans.
“We are gratified that Judge Walker rejected the government’s overbroad claims of secrecy, and that our case on behalf of AT&T customers can go forward,” said EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston. “Judge Walker correctly found that the government, after having already admitted to and extensively commented on the NSA’s spying program, cannot now claim that it is a secret and sweep AT&T is fully committed to protecting our customers’ privacy, and we would not provide customer information to any government agency except as specifically authorized under the law.” — Washington Post
So the lawsuit goes forward, and perhaps we may actually learn how completely ineffective this program really has been for increasing security, and how completely effective it has been for decreasing privacy.