Is the Obama administration aping its predecessor by taking a dangerously broad view of state secrecy, enabling them to avoid revealing information about warrantless wiretaps and other controversial tactics in the war on terror?
The Washington Post raises the question today, but doesn’t provide much of an answer.
The immediate issue is a lawsuit filed by an Oregon charity, suspected of funding terrorism, which alleges that the government’s suspected illegal eavesdropping of board members violated the charity’s rights. The Obama Justice Department, as we noted earlier this month, has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it implicitly involves state secrets and therefore puts national security at risk — an argument advanced by the Bush administration as well. And it has gone further, arguing that government lawyers can remove classified documents from the court’s custody, in order to keep the charity from reviewing them.
During the campaign, Obama criticized the Bush administration for invoking the state secrets argument too often.
But the extent of the opposition among civil libertarians to the Obama Justice Department’s approach isn’t clear. The Post quotes a law professor at the University of California at Irvine,, who declares: “There has to be other ways to protect secret information without having to block accountability,”
And of course, the lawyer for the charity isn’t happy. “This is an executive branch threat to exercise control over a judicial branch function,” he tells the paper.
But the views of civil liberties groups like the ACLU aren’t mentioned. The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the warrantless wiretap program (it was rejected by the Supreme Court last year) but its level of concern over the Obama Justice Department’s approach to the Oregon charity case, or other cases, remains unclear.
We’ll hope to fill in some of those blanks later today…