US Government claims to be above the law, say activists

Out-Law News | 22 Jun 2006 | 2:23 pm | 1 min. read

The US Government has claimed that it is above the law in a wire-tapping case, privacy activists have said. The claim came in relation to the government intervention in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's case against AT&T.

The EFF is taking the telco to court over its alleged provision of call data to the US National Security Agency. The US government has filed a motion to have the case dismissed via an assertion of a state and military secrets privilege.

In documents just filed by the US in its attempt to block the case, the Government says: "the court – even if it were to find unlawfulness upon in camera, ex partereview – could not then proceed to adjudicate the very question of awarding damages because to do so would confirm Plaintiffs’ allegations."

The EFF, a free speech and privacy lobby group in the US, believes that the US Government is claiming to be above the law. "In short, the Government asserts that AT&T and the Executive can break the laws crafted by Congress, and there is nothing the Judiciary can do about it," said an EFF statement.

"The Government is saying that, even if the Judiciary found the wholesale surveillance program was illegal after reviewing secret evidence in chambers, the Court nevertheless would be powerless to proceed, because the Executive has asserted that the Program, which has been widely reported in every major news outlet, is nevertheless still such a secret that the Judiciary (a co-equal branch under the Constitution) cannot acknowledge its existence by ruling against it," said the EFF statement.

A San Francisco federal court will hear oral arguments tomorrow regarding the US government's motion to dismiss the case. "We intend to vigorously oppose this radical assertion of power," said the EFF.