[O]ne rather obscure case could pull back the veil on a surveillance program that's at the heart of the US fight against terror. In the federal appeals court in San Francisco Wednesday, lawyers for a Saudi charity accused of helping Al Qaeda will argue that their clients, including two American attorneys, were illegally spied on without the required court warrant.Whoa! How do they know that?
How do they know? Treasury Department officials inadvertently provided them with National Security Agency (NSA) call logs stamped "top secret."Uh-ohhhh. Somebody made a biiiiig boo-boo.
The judges also said that they have "standing" in federal courts – that they have enough of a case to sue the federal government.Yeah, yeah, same ol', same ol'. Really, how far can they get?
If the appeals court agrees with the lower court, the US Supreme Court is likely to become involved. The case could have broader significance as well since it deals with presidential power during wartime.
"The difficulty in challenging any secret program is in proving that you were a victim of it," says Jon Eisenberg, a lawyer in Oakland, Calif., who represents the now-defunct US arm of the Islamic charitable foundation. "We have that proof, and that makes us unique."
So, there we have it! Justice will prevail! Then again, if it goes to the Supremes, all bets are off. But still... they did say they have proof, and that should count for something.
Treasury and Justice Department officials refuse to comment on the case. But in court documents urging dismissal, administration officials wrote: "Whether plaintiffs were subjected to surveillance is a state secret, and information tending to confirm or deny that fact is privileged."The italics are mine. So is the headache coming on.