American Civil Liberties Union
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 21, 2006
CONTACT: American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU Urges Court to Reject State Secrets Claim in NSA Case
DETROIT - June 21 - The federal
government should not be allowed to avoid judicial review of the National
Security Agency's illegal spying program by invoking the state secrets
privilege, argued the American Civil Liberties Union in legal papers released
The move is the latest step in the ACLU's landmark lawsuit challenging
the NSA program. The government is attempting to prevent the case from going
forward by invoking a legal doctrine known as the "state secrets
"This administration is radically trying to expand the state
secrets privilege to shield its own illegal conduct," said Ann Beeson, ACLU
Associate Legal Director. "There are no more facts - let alone secret ones -
needed for the court to decide whether the president can violate the law and the
Constitution by spying on innocent Americans without a warrant."
argued that the government cannot claim that the case involves state secrets
because it has acknowledged and defended the spying program to the public. In
fact, on January 19, the Justice Department issued a 40-page White Paper
discussing in detail its legal defenses and justifications for the NSA program.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have discussed and promoted the program
numerous times at news conferences and other public events.
have also publicly testified before Congress about the legality, scope and basis
for the NSA surveillance program on several occasions.
The ACLU warned that
dismissing the entire lawsuit on state secrets grounds would be an attack on the
authority of the courts to review any egregious action taken by the executive
branch, including the torture of Americans within U.S. borders.
government cloaked its motion in "rhetoric about state secrets and presidential
duties," its real purpose is clear, said the ACLU. The government seeks to
dismiss not just the ACLU suit, but to prevent any court from ruling on the
legality of the program. The government has also moved to dismiss other legal
challenges against the NSA and has intervened to urge dismissal of lawsuits
filed against telecommunications companies around the country seeking to block
their participation in the program.
"Allowing the Executive to violate the
law and then avoid judicial scrutiny altogether by invoking the state secrets
privilege as a bar to litigation would dangerously concentrate all executive,
legislative, and judicial power in one branch of government," argued the ACLU in
its brief, which was filed in federal court last night.
previously recognized that the state secrets privilege should not be used
lightly, noting that there are grave consequences when it is used to dismiss an
In the 1953 case, United States v. Reynolds, the Supreme Court
articulated the basis for the state secrets privilege. The government had
claimed that disclosing a military flight accident report would jeopardize
secret military equipment and harm national security. Nearly 50 years later, in
2004, the truth came out: the accident report contained no state secrets, but
instead confirmed that the cause of the crash was faulty maintenance of the B-29
The ACLU's federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the
Eastern District of Michigan. A hearing to discuss the state secrets privilege
will be held on July 10 before Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit.
government also filed a motion this week to consolidate the ACLU lawsuit with
other NSA challenges across the country, and transfer the case to the District
of Columbia. The ACLU intends to oppose the motion.
Attorneys in the case are
Beeson, Jameel Jaffer, Melissa Goodman and Scott Michelman of the national ACLU,
and Michael Steinberg and Kary Moss of the ACLU of Michigan.
The ACLU brief
is online at www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/25954lgl20060620.html
more legal documents and background on this case, go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying