Facing two dozen legal skirmishes around the country over top-secret NSA surveillance programs, federal lawyers want to shift the battlefield to their home turf, where they will try to put an end to it all with a single shot.
In a little-noticed filing, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers on Monday asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate about two dozen cases, including two from Oregon, before a judge in Washington, D.C.
Federal lawyers said they intended to seek dismissal of all the suits in order to protect state secrets.
The move, which did not reach many opposing attorneys until Tuesday, comes as federal attorneys are expected today to inform a federal judge in Portland that a lawsuit here would expose state secrets. They are expected to make the same argument in San Francisco later this week.
Last week, Justice Department lawyers filed a lawsuit trying to stop New Jersey from subpoenaing information about an NSA program and defended another lawsuit in Michigan.
By asking the federal panel in Washington to consolidate all the lawsuits, Justice lawyers say they are trying to be efficient and protect national security. But lawyers challenging the program bristled at the move.
"It sounds like forum-shopping to me," said Jon Eisenberg, one of the lawyers representing an Oregon Islamic charity that claims it has proof the NSA illegally eavesdropped on phone calls between the group's directors and its U.S. attorneys.