Monday, May 29, 2006

Wading Through Bush's Friday Trash Dump

WESTWING, Season 1, "Take Out the Trash Day":

DONNA: What's 'Take Out the Trash Day'?

JOSH: Friday.

DONNA: I mean what is it?

JOSH: Any stories we have to give the press that we're not wild about we give all in a lump on Friday.

DONNA: Why do you do it in a lump?

JOSH: Instead of one at a time?

DONNA: I'd think you'd want to spread them out.

JOSH: They've got X column inches to fill, right? They're gonna fill them no matter what.


JOSH: So if we give them one story, that story's X column inches.

DONNA: And if we give them 5 stories...

JOSH: They're a fifth the size.

DONNA: Why do you do it on Friday?

JOSH: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.

DONNA: You guys are real populists, aren't you?

Bush Asks Judges to Toss NSA Lawsuits:
The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits against the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets.

In papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the legality of the spying program without disclosing classified information that could be of value to suspected terrorists.

The administration laid out some supporting arguments in classified memos filed under seal.

The government's two lawsuits brought over the National Security Agency's motion involves two cases challenging an NSA program that allows investigators to eavesdrop on Americans who communicate with people outside the country who are suspected of terrorist ties.

The first suit [complaint, PDF], brought in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights in January on its own behalf and on behalf of CCR attorneys and legal staff representing clients who fit the government's criteria for targeting, asks the federal courts to block the program as an abuse of presidential power without judicial approval or statutory authorization in breach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Article II of the US Constitution, and the First and Fourth Amendments.

The second suit [complaint, PDF] brought in Michigan by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations similarly having "a well-founded belief that their communications are being intercepted by the NSA" also charges that the NSA program violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

Shayana Khadidl, a staff attorney on the CCR litigation, responded to the dismissal motion by saying:
The Bush Administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument. This is a mysterious and undemocratic request, since the administration says the reason the court is being asked to drop the case is a secret. I think it's a clear choice: can the President tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the President accountable for breaking the law.

The government motion was made in immediate response to CCR's own motion for summary judgment in the case, filed March 9. CCR's own response to the government motion has not been filed, but is expected to emphasize that its evidence on the illegality of the spying program is based on public evidence, not secret documents, and that even if the government is correct in saying that a public trial could disclose state secrets, alternatives exist in the form of closed proceedings or requiring filings to be made under seal.

Earlier this month, the DOJ successfully persuaded a federal judge in the al-Masri CIA rendition case to dismiss an ACLU suit on similar state secrets grounds. The US Supreme Court established the state secrets privilege in the 1953 case of United States v. Reynolds. The government invoked the privilege in only four cases between 1953 and 1976, but it was invoked by the Bush administration 23 times in the four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has been invoked at least five times in the past year.

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