Court tells Bush: Can't 'Sacrifice Liberty'

Despite the Bush administration's defense that even to acknowledge the existence of its AT&T-assisted eavesdropping program (well, we could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you...) would jeopardize national security secrets the Bush Sr.-appointed judge said: ah-ah... no dice.

Here's a description of the suit from the good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

EFF filed the class-action suit against AT&T in January, alleging that the telecommunications company has given the National Security Agency (NSA) secret, direct access to the phone calls and emails going over its network and has been handing over communications logs detailing the activities of millions of ordinary Americans.
According to Glenn Greenwald, the court's decision to let the case go forward (both against the admin and AT&T) was partly based on the recent Hamdi case which limited Bush's "wartime" powers, "yet another reminder that the Bush administration's claims of unlimited presidential power have no place in our system of government..."

From the ruling:
"Even the state secrets privilege has its limit. While the court recognizes and respects the executive's constitutional duty to protect the nation from threats, the court also takes seriously its constitutional duty to adjudicate the disputes that come before it."

Greenwald notes that not only will this decision be almost immediately appealed but that pending legislation threatens to remove all NSA cases to the secret FISA court system displacing the traditional courts.

But then: "Those caveats to the side, the importance of this victory cannot be overstated."

One final note of Bush admin irony. The Justice Dept was originally investigating the legality of the NSA program but Bush halted it on the grounds that while the AT&T employees in the know had the security clearance to assess the situation, our Justice Dept's lawyers, umm, didn't. (UnclaimedTerritory, Balkinization)

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