President Obama isn't ready to back away from the state secrets privilege. Tomorrow, Justice Department lawyers are expected to notify a judge that it will not back away from its assertion of the privilege in the Al-Haramain case, even under the threat of sanctions. Judge Vaughn Walker, frustrated by months of delay from the government, said he might summarily rule in favor of Al-Haramain, the Islamic charity that's suing the government over the legality of the National Security Agency's domestic collection programs.
The government wants to force Walker's hand by stonewallking. Walker could order the government to release a critical, highly-classified document, an order that could be -- and would be -- appealed to 2nd circuit court of appeals. Or, Walker could decide the case in favor of the plaintiffs, something that the plaintiffs don't want ... the case isn't about money, for them, it's about the legality of the NSA program. (The government could also make the case go away by accepting the summary judgment; they'd pay a few million bucks to the plaintiffs and wouldn't have to disclose -- or admit -- anything.)
Marc Ambinder is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.