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State secrets all the way down

To get all Glenn Greenwald for a minute, one reason that liberals have been disappointed in Obama isn't because, like, he failed to fight Republicans hard enough and stuff. It's because in several ways he's continued some of the worst policies of the Bush administration when it comes to the NSA and drone warfare and a relatively obscure topic, state secrets privilege, which is where the government gets court cases thrown out because, they claim, allowing them to go forward would threaten national security. The use of the state secrets argument increased dramatically under Bush but then continued (Greenwald would say increased) under Obama. The latest example is particularly egregious because the court case is not even against the government. It's against a (supposedly) private advocacy group that a business owner is suing for defamation.

The Justice Department intervened late Friday in a defamation lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran, a prominent advocacy group that pushes for tough sanctions against Tehran. The government said the case should be dropped because forcing the group to open its files would jeopardize national security.

The group is not affiliated with the government, and lists no government contracts on its tax forms. The government has cited no precedent for using the so-called state-secrets privilege to quash a private lawsuit that does not focus on government activity.

The lawsuit is brought by a Greek shipping company that has been accused of doing business with Iran by United Against Nuclear Iran. Presumably the company thinks they can prove that United Against Nuclear Iran's accusation is hurting their reputation and profits. They tried to subpoena the group's donor list, maybe to show that a rival business is among their contributors. The issue may seem trivial to us, but this company now has no recourse to the law thanks to the intervention of the government. This could nepotism, it could be an indication that the government is engaging in illegal propaganda, or it could "just" be a continued case of overreach of the state-secrets privilege. Regardless of which it is, it seems fishy and a more real type of Federal government abuse of power than the stuff you see Tea Party and Libertarian types complaining about. Which is too bad because it would be nice to see a left-right coalition on issues like these.

By fnord12 | September 15, 2014, 9:45 AM | Liberal Outrage