A federal judge in the Northern District of California just ruled that he can't rule in a case accusing the NSA of spying on Americans. This lack of a ruling means the NSA may continue with its activities. But the really disappointing and weird part is how the judge justified his stance.
The judge said the case couldn't continue because it might lead to the possible disclosure of state secrets. In other words, you can't stop the NSA from running its secret program — even if that program violates the Fourth Amendment — because the program is secret. It's the most vicious of cycles.
The case in question is Jewel vs. NSA. It's civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation's longest standing challenge to the NSA's practice of intercepting internet communications, and understandably, EFF was not happy with the ruling. The organization's Kurt Opsahl wrote in a blog post:
EFF will keep fighting the unlawful, unconstitutional surveillance of ordinary Americans by the U.S. government. Today's ruling in Jewel v. NSA was not a declaration that NSA spying is legal. The judge decided instead that "state secrets" prevented him from ruling whether the program is constitutional.
It would be a travesty of justice if our clients are denied their day in court over the "secrecy" of a program that has been front-page news for nearly a decade. Judge White's ruling does not end our case.
Just to recap, a federal court can't decide whether a government spy agency's actions are constitutional because they're too secret. Isn't this sort of thing what the Bill of Rights is supposed to prevent from happening? Either way, it doesn't look like President Obama is going to reform this twisted situation. [Reuters, EFF]