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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 24, 2014

 
Bipartisan Executive CYA: we *will* not be embarrassed

by digby

Gosh, I wonder why the framers of the Constitution thought it was a good idea to have freedom of the press, due process and public trials?
After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

Holder went so far as to tell the judge presiding over the case that this assertion of the state secrets privilege was fully in keeping with Obama’s much-ballyhooed 2009 executive branch reforms of the privilege, which stated the administration would invoke state secrets sparingly.

“Under this policy, the Department of Justice will defend an assertion of the state secrets privilege in litigation, and seek dismissal of a claim on that basis, only when necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security,” reads an April signed declaration from the attorney general to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who presided over the Ibrahim litigation in San Francisco.

The state secrets privilege was first upheld by the Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era case and generally requires judges to dismiss lawsuits against the United States when the government asserts a trial threatens national security.

In his declaration, Holder assured Judge Alsup that the government would not be claiming national security to conceal “administrative error” or to “prevent embarrassment” — an assertion that is now nearly impossible to square with the facts.

Elizabeth Pipkin, the San Jose attorney who represented Ibrahim in her legal odyssey pro bono, said the Obama administration should be embarrassed.

“The idea that any of this poses any threat to national security is ridiculous,” Pipkin said in a telephone interview. “These government state secret privileges are to protect national security. They are not supposed to be used to cover up government errors.”

The Justice Department did not respond for comment.
It must be noted that this was a continuation of a Bush administration legal strategy, so anyone who claims that the Obama administration failed to act in a bipartisan manner isn't seeing the whole picture.

This is why we have to be skeptical of government claims that all this spying is necessary to keep us safe from the boogeyman. They lie.

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