feds seek to block oregon spying case

feds seek to block oregon spying casefrom ap/yahoo: U.S. Justice Department lawyers filed an appeal Friday aimed at blocking a lawsuit by a former Islamic charity that has challenged a Bush administration secret surveillance program.

U.S. District Judge Garr M. King ruled earlier this month that a lawsuit by the defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter in Ashland could go forward without damaging national security.

But government lawyers argue that state secrets would be revealed if the lawsuit is allowed to proceed.

The case hinges on a classified document that U.S. Treasury officials inadvertently turned over to Al-Haramain lawyers after the charity was declared a global terrorist organization.

The charity’s attorneys say the document shows that two U.S. lawyers for Al-Haramain and at least one of its officials were under electronic surveillance in 2004.

Justice Department lawyers have argued the document falls under the “state secrets privilege,” allowing a judge to dismiss a lawsuit if it could damage national security by revealing state secrets.

The appeal filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said “the district court is wrongly attempting to create some form of secret adversarial proceedings, and, in doing so, is raising a serious danger of disclosure of important national security information.”

Steve Goldberg, a Portland attorney
representing the charity, said the appeal could delay the case by a couple of years.

He also said Judge King has been careful in handling security concerns.

“The government keeps insisting that national security will be greatly threatened if we proceed,” Goldberg said.

But the judge is “being very sensitive in how the case proceeds to protect the document, so again I think the government’s concerns are not justified, given the way the case is being handled,” Goldberg said.

Calls to the U.S. attorney’s office were not returned.

The National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program has been challenged in other federal courts since The New York Times revealed it last year.