IDG News Service - Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation squared off in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday over a warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush administration.
The EFF sued the government and officials who implemented the secret program in September in an effort to get the government to stop the practice of recording communications involving U.S. citizens without a federal warrant. The EFF argues that this warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but government lawyers say the lawsuit should be thrown out because it could lead to the disclosure of state secrets.
The judge in the case, Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, already heard most of these arguments during an ongoing 2006 suit, Hepting v. AT&T, that also sought to put an end to the program. The EFF brought this second suit, Jewel v. NSA, after Congress passed a law last year that protected telecommunications companies like AT&T from lawsuits over the wiretapping.
On Wednesday, DoJ lawyer Anthony Coppolino argued that federal laws allow people to sue government employees who leak information, but do not let them sue the government itself. Coppolino added that litigating such cases could put state secrets at risk by exposing details of the government's anti-terrorist programs.
Wednesday's court date was for the Judge Walker to hear arguments over the government's motion to dismiss the case. He did not issue a ruling Wednesday and it was not known when he would do so.
The exact details of the government's warrantless wiretapping program have never been made public. It was set up in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. to create an early warning system for future attacks, but the EFF describes it as a "dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans"
A report (pdf) released last week by the Inspectors General of five intelligence agencies characterized the program as ineffective, but revealed few details. The report "doesn't say anything that would readily confirm or address whether there was a communications dragnet," Coppolino told Judge Walker Wednesday.
As part of the EFF's 2006 lawsuit, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein described a secret room set up to monitor phone and internet communications on AT&T's networks for the U.S. National Security Agency.
While campaigning against President George W. Bush, Barack Obama had pledged that there would be "no more wiretapping of American citizens," but Obama's administration has continued to use many of his predecessor's arguments when it comes to warrantless wiretapping.
After the nearly two hours of arguments ended in court Wednesday, EFF lawyers said Obama had reneged on campaign promises by continuing to support the program. "It's not surprising; it is disappointing," said Kevin Bankston, an EFF attorney.
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance
- Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- The Truth About Virtual Computing for CAD
- If you're a user of graphics-intensive software such as 3D modeling, simulation and analysis, and visualization, you might be skeptical about moving to...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics
- "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Simplifying Product Design In A Complex World
- Product design engineering has moved far beyond the confines of ever-more powerful workstations. Companies can't afford to restrict projects to using only local... All Government IT White Papers
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Why Are Customers Really Deploying an NGFW? It seems every IT Security expert is talking about the NGFW, but what are people really doing? This webcast covers 5 real-world customer...
- Charting Your Analytical Future - "Making predictive analytics part of your business processes" Webinar This session will show how predictive analytics can be used throughout the organization by anyone looking for answers and how organizations can make...
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success!
- Transform Your IT Service Management Watch this webinar, to learn how EasyVista can increase IT productivity & efficiency and deliver streamlined & integrated IT Service & Asset Mgmt.
- All Government IT Webcasts