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In an attempt to prevent a federal judge from ruling on the constitutionality of surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency (NSA), the Obama administration told the court that litigating the case would endanger state secrets.
This comes after a different federal judge ruled that the mass collection of NSA phone records is likely unconstitutional.
In a pair of court filings late Friday, the White House told the court for the Northern District of California that the NSA collection of Americans’ Internet and phone data was authorized by former President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“President Bush issued authorizations approximately every 30-60 days,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper revealed.
“Although the precise terms changed over time, each presidential authorization required the minimization of information collected concerning American citizens to the extent consistent with the effective accomplishment of the mission of detection and prevention of acts of terrorism within the United States,” Clapper stated. “NSA also applied additional internal constraints on the presidentially-authorized activities.”
Yet the government is now arguing that the release of more information on NSA surveillance programs in court cause “great harm to national security.”
The still-secret information “remains properly classified for national security reasons and because of the great harm to national security if disclosed,” according to Clapper.
This secrecy must be maintained, according to the Obama administration, despite the great deal of classified information released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that was published by major media outlets.
The New York Times reports that many sensitive secrets could be uncovered in court, “like whether the plaintiffs were targets of intelligence collection or whether particular telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon had helped the agency.”
The disclosure of secret information on the operational details of NSA spying and the scope of their activities “could be expected to cause extremely grave damage to the national security of the United States,” Clapper stated, according to the Times.
As it has in the past, the Obama administration is invoking their state secrets privilege in an attempt to prevent the case from moving forward.
The Justice Department has asked U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White to dismiss the case, brought by plaintiffs that include the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), without ruling on the constitutionality of the programs.
Earlier, the court ordered the government to identify how the Snowden leaks impacted their invocation of the state secrets privilege, according to CNET.
Cindy Cohn, legal director for the EFF, said that Clapper’s assertions are “very troubling.”
Despite the information leaked by Snowden, the government is still essentially saying, “We can’t say whether the American people have been spied on by their government,” Cohn said, according to the Times.
“The government seems to be trying to reset the clock to before June 2013 or even December 2005,” Cohn said in a statement.
“But the American people know that their communications are being swept up by the government under various NSA programs,” Cohn stated. “The government’s attempt to block true judicial review of its mass, untargeted collection of content and metadata by pretending that the basic facts about how the spying affects the American people are still secret is both outrageous and disappointing.”
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.