The WaPo has a front page article blaring about Obama’s horrible record on state secrets.
I agree with the article that Obama’s record on state secrets has been disappointing. But I’m really tired of reporting that misses key facts about the case. Here’s the theme of the WaPo article.
The first signs [that Obama is "forsaking" campaign rhetoric about openness] have come just weeks into the new administration, in a case filed by an Oregon charity suspected of funding terrorism. President Obama’s Justice Department not only sought to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that it implicated "state secrets," but also escalated the standoff — proposing that government lawyers might take classified documents from the court’s custody to keep the charity’s representatives from reviewing them.
The article says that there is a "standoff" that Obama’s DOJ has "escalated" that pertains to state secrets.
As a reminder, the question that Vaughn Walker answered on January 5 was whether or not FISA pre-empted state secrets. Ultimately, Walker said it did, and he ruled that he would review the documents submitted in the case to determine whether al-Haramain was an aggrieved party that could sue the government for violating FISA. The Bush Administration appealed that decision–basically arguing that state secrets trumps FISA–and the Obama Administration supported that appeal.
They lost that appeal.
Now, if it were true that Obama were "escalating" a "standoff" about state secrets, then he would have appealed the 9th Circuit decision–I’m not a lawyer, but unless I’m wildly mistaken, that’s how one "escalates" a legal matter. But Obama did not appeal that decision, meaning that Walker’s decision that FISA trumps state secrets stands. With the 9th Circuit decision, this case moved onto the next stage of the proceedings, where Walker would look at the classified filings and made a decision about al-Haramain’s standing. And, as far as the unclassified record in the case shows, that’s where the case stands now (it’s possible Walker has ruled and is allowing the Administration to do a classification review of his ruling, but my gut feel is that Walker hasn’t decided yet).
And there’s another hint that Obama is not "escalating" this "standoff"–one that we here at emptywheel appear to be the only people in creation that are remotely interested in. First, Obama admitted that some of the information submitted earlier in this suit was "inaccurate." And Obama’s DOJ submitted four new filings that corrected this inaccuracy.
The Government’s ex parte, in camera classified submissions also address an inaccuracy contained in a prior submission by the Government, the details of which involve classified information that cannot be set forth on the public record.