I Could Tell You Why It's Legal, but Then I'd Have to Kill You


On Monday a Justice Department lawyer, Anthony Coppolino, told the federal judge who is considering a lawsuit challenging the NSA's warrantless surveillance of phone calls and e-mail that the program is both legal and necessary to protect national security--legal, in fact, because it is necessary to protect national security, which triggers the president's inherent power to ignore laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The thing is, Coppolino added, "the evidence we need to demonstrate to you that it is lawful cannot be disclosed without that process itself causing grave harm to United States national security." The government's case seems airtight to me: If the surveillance program is vital to national security, it is legal, and since the government refuses to talk about it we know it must be vital to national security.

NEXT: Subsidizing Enron

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  1. When is it going to stop? Congress is past hope, but maybe, just maybe, one of these "activist" judges will tire of being used as the Administrations bendover bitch and fight back.

  2. I'm really hoping the judge writes an opinion that contains an allusion to Kafka's "The Trial" because if ever there was case that merited one, this would be it.

  3. Where's Harriet Miers when you need her?

  4. if you look carefully, you'll see Rod Serling in the courtroom gallery

  5. Sounds like yet another "news in brief" story from The Onion. Life imitates satire quite often under Bush...

    Here's an idea: why not just, as an experiment, release some of the evidence? Then see if it really does end up causing "grave harm to the National Security of the United States".

    Here's another idea: why not just throw all these jackoffs out on their ass and start anew? If that argument above doesn't make you tremble with rage, then there's something terribly, terribly wrong with you.

  6. Jack Balkin beat you to the title of the post by two days.

  7. Helluva catch, that catch-22.

  8. How about we just have the government show the Judge the evidence behind closed doors and let him decide if it should be made public. After all that is what Judges do every day, decide what should and should not be allowed into evidence in a trial.

  9. It's funny that this administration "Because we fucking said so" line of reasoning so often, as if our legal system wasn't specifically designed to prevent government from doing that.

  10. They don't want the evidence to get out because the public might discover we are at war with Eastasia rather than Eurasia,

    or was it the other way around?

    Fuck it, I can't remember. I think I'll go watch American Idol reruns now...

  11. So, who's on first?

  12. Actually, I just remembered that my previous joke is not that funny.

    I saw on Drudge the other day the term "Iraq Qaeda."

    Is this a new neo-con buzzword that is designed to confuse people about the difference between Iraq and Al-Qeada in Afghanistan?

    I suppose that we should just lump 'em together, since they both hate freedom and all...

  13. Despite strange statements and even occasional court rulings to the contrary, there is, strangely enough, no national security exemption to the Constitution. I'm sure Sulla or Caesar would've justified marching on Rome as necessary for the protection of the Republic. Though both of those acts were, of course, unconstitutional. Bad things happen when the rules limiting government action begin to have no meaning.

    Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage 🙂

  14. As a certified (and probably certifiable) skeptic, circular/question-begging arguments -- such as those made by Coppolinomake -- make me crazy.

    Rod Serling, you say, biologist? Since he's dead, will Stephen Colbert do?

  15. Where's Harriet Miers when you need her?
    Delivering pizzas in some Texas backwater.

  16. Is this a new neo-con buzzword that is designed to confuse people about the difference between Iraq and Al-Qeada in Afghanistan?

    No, I think its shorthand for AQ operation in Iraq.

    There is one, you know. Google up "Zarqawi".

  17. Bad things happen when the rules limiting government action begin to have no meaning.

    Very true. If we didn't already have a nanny/welfare state, it would be much harder for the national security state to get much traction.

  18. Unless it's to build me my own, personal moonbase with thousands of Salma Hayek slave-clones, I'm opposed to any government action outside of Constitutional limits. I mean the real limits, not these ersatz ones we're stuck with today.

  19. WOW! That would have been a great moot court argument in law school! But are we surprised that this ultra-secretive administration would try to pass of that argument in a court of law?


  20. Is it just me, or are these assertions becoming more common as the administration becomes less and less popular? Maybe it's just that the lawsuits are just now coming to trial, but it seems that the administration is clutching to power more and more tightly as it becomes less and less popular. If so, it bodes ill for the election in 2008, if the Republicans are tossed out on their ears. "We have to suspend the election for national security, but we can't tell you what the threat is."

  21. Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly, grylliade.

    You're saying that if the Republicans get tossed out on their ears in 2008, Bush will suspend the election, saying something like "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland."

    No way! That's what Hitler said when he created the Gestapo.

  22. if the Republicans are tossed out on their ears. "We have to suspend the election for national security, but we can't tell you what the threat is."

    A potential plus is that our troops might finally come home. You know, to "ensure an orderly process" or some such...

  23. Priceless. Unbelievable. I'm awe-inspired.

  24. From the article:
    Calling the plaintiffs' position extreme, Mr. Coppolino said that the 1978 law could not constitutionally constrain the president when the nation's safety was at risk.

    Is it just me, or did the government just say that the ACLU is extreme?

    I guess I'm a card-carrying member of an extremist group. It's been nice knowing you guys. Well, I'm sure I'll see some of you in Gitmo.

    Also from the article:
    "Our constitutional system was set up to require the president to follow the law just like anyone else," she added. "If our view of the separation of powers is extreme, then the Constitution is extreme."

    Wasn't the Constitution written under extreme circumstances? Like, less than a decade after the end of a war against a global superpower with troops still massed on our border? Like, during a time of talk of domestic rebellions?


    You know, if they keep using the "Cuz we said so!" defense, then I guess I could actually see them canceling an election. Fox News would hold a fair and balanced debate on the subject: Was it a regrettable but necessary step to secure American freedom, or was it a brilliant and courageous step to secure American freedom?

  25. The Constitution allows Congress to change the date when elections are held, right?

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