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Beams of hope appear in warrantless-wiretapping case

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By The Staff

Like a beam of sunlight breaking through dark storm clouds, a glimmer of hope appeared Thursday in a National Public Radio report.

NPR's Martin Kaste said the state-secrets tactic has failed to stop a lawsuit contending the U.S. government violated the privacy rights of an Islamic charity when it monitored the group's telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant first.

We opposed in this space in February 2008 warrantless wiretapping and retroactive immunity for the telecommunications giants that aided our government in committing the crime. The bill forgiving those companies for their transgressions was adopted and, as a result, cases against the telecoms have been dismissed, Kaste reported.

Cases against the government are still alive, however, the reporter noted. In that line and another lie the sliver of light.

"For almost three years, the Bush administration tried to quash the lawsuit, arguing that the wiretapping program was simply too secret for court," Kaste said, noting the "state-secrets privilege" usually shuts a case down with little question.

Presiding over the charity's lawsuit, Judge Vaughn Walker has been skeptical of the government's use of the state-secrets privilege, he said.

Kaste noted President Obama criticized the Bush administration's frequent use of the state-secrets privilege as he campaigned for office, "but now his Justice Department continues to invoke it."

"Judge Walker on Wednesday ordered both sides to put the secrecy debate aside and move on to the case itself," according to Kaste's second beam-of-light statement.

Walker's order sets aside the we-can't-talk-about-it sidestep. We will talk about it, and we must talk about it. As we asserted more than two years ago, and will continue to assert, our government is employed by and works for us.

It is, of course, necessary to protect some information, such as when and where specific attacks will occur. The excuses as to why our government should violate the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, however, is something we all have a right to hear.

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