As we now all know, President Obama (and Attorney General Holder for that matter) has completely reversed himself, by not only refusing to prosecute or investigate the program and/or those that carried it out, but even expanding their defense of the program in some important key respects. But, before I get to some of that history, and how it relates to this decision, Wired Magazine has more:
The groups appealed, arguing that they often work with overseas dissidents who might be targets of the National Security Agency program. Instead of speaking with those people on the phone or through e-mails, the groups asserted that they have had to make expensive overseas trips in a bid to maintain attorney-client confidentiality.
The plaintiffs, some of them journalists, also claim the 2008 legislation chills their speech, and violates their Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Without ruling on the merits of the case, the appeals court on Monday agreed with the plaintiffs that they have ample reason to fear the surveillance program, and thus have legal standing to pursue their claim.
This leads of course to the other key argument we know is sure to be coming from the government: the state secrets privilege. Now that this judge has at least ruled that those in the lawsuit have a right to sue, even without providing direct evidence of being wiretapped, the question now will become whether plaintiff's can get passed the what has become a radical State Secrets interpretation advocated by both the Bush and Obama Administration's.
This report, mandated by Congress in 2009 and produced by the inspectors general of five federal agencies, also found that other intelligence tools used in assessing security threats posed by terrorists provided more timely and detailed information.
In fact, NOT ONE instance could be cited that demonstrated the wiretapping program prevented any attack of any kind, ever. Nor did it lead to the capture of any terrorists. In light of these facts, one would think that the Obama Administration would come down somewhere at least close to the position that candidate Obama espoused on the campaign trail. Sadly, the opposite has been true.
In fact, all we have to show as a nation since this program was exposed is additional protections (and retroactive immunity) to telecom companies for sharing our private information with the government, and more legal cover for the Executive Branch to carry out similar efforts in the future. To date, giving telecom companies immunity has served the dual purpose of protecting the politicians from having the telecom companies share what they know about THEIR crimes! Add to that the hurdles of "standing" and "states secrets", and the enormous challenge to achieve justice becomes apparent.
Senator Obama branded the Patriot Act "shoddy and dangerous" and pledged to end it in 2003. In 2005, he pledged to filibuster a Bush-sponsored bill that included several of these exact components recently extended, calling them "just plain wrong" in a Senate speech. He argued:
"Government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document -- through library books they've read and phone calls they've made...We don't have to settle for a Patriot Act that sacrifices our liberties or our safety -- we can have one that secures both."