Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Secret Surveillance


The U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday and dealt another blow to public interest lawsuits by rejecting the standing of civil liberties groups and citizens to challenge the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs. President Obama has long been criticized for his opposition to such lawsuits and his Justice Department has continued a successful attack on the ability of citizens to challenge the unconstitutional actions of their government in the war on terror. The 5-4 opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. insulates such programs from judicial review in yet another narrowing of standing rules.

Alito rejected the ability of an array of journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates to challenge the constitutionality of the 2008 law allowing secret surveillance without meeting constitutional standards of probable cause. Alito simply said that the parties could not prove that they were subject to surveillance — since the Obama Administration has classified such evidence — and insisted that their fears and precautionary actions are merely efforts to “manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms.”

Alito wrote that just because no one may be able to challenge the law is no reason to recognize standing — a position that guts the separation of powers principles underlying judicial review. He also cites to the secret FISA as judicial review — a truly laughable proposition. I have been in that court as a NSA legal intern and the thought that it constitutes any real form of review is a preposterous notion. I have written and testified on this court in the past.

In dissent, Justice Breyer correctly noted that “Several considerations, based upon the record along with commonsense inferences, convince me that there is a very high likelihood that Government, acting under the authority of §1881a, will intercept at least some of the communications just described.”

SAlitoAlito and his colleagues had to work hard bar these constitutional claims from review. It is a signature for Alito who has had a consistent and disturbing record of yielding to police powers. Absent a religious practice or gun claim or environmental claim where Alito turns on the government, he is the very symbol not of blind justice but the blind justice on government abuse.

The decision is Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, and it is a true nightmare for civil liberties. Alito and his colleagues have essentially guaranteed that even blatant unconstitutional programs can be insulated from judicial review by allowing the very same accused Administration to classify the evidence needed to bring any lawsuit.

Here is the opinion: 11-1025_ihdj

Source: NY Times

85 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Secret Surveillance”

  1. Long-ago wiretap inspires a battle with the CIA for more information

    By Ian Shapira, Published: March 2

    “Paul Scott, the late syndicated columnist, was so paranoid about the CIA wiretapping his Prince George’s County home in the 1960s that he’d make important calls from his neighbor’s house. His teenage son Jim Scott figured his dad was either a shrewd reporter or totally nuts.

    Not until nearly 45 years later did the son learn that his father’s worries were justified. The insight came in 2007 when the CIA declassified a trove of documents popularly called “the family jewels.” The papers detailed the agency’s unlawful activities from long ago, including wiretapping the Scott home in District Heights. The operation even had a code name: “Project Mockingbird.

    Jim was floored: The CIA really did eavesdrop on Dad.

    Now Jim, 64, a retired Navy public relations officer who lives in Anne Arundel County, is waging an operation of his own against the agency. For the past five years, he has sought to declassify and make public any documents Langley might still have on his father and why he was wiretapped.” (article continues)

  2. Details Revealed on Secret U.S. “Ragtime” Domestic Surveillance Program

    By Ryan Gallagher

    Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, at 4:39 PM


    Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans didn’t have standing to challenge secret surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency. Now, new details about the eavesdropping have surfaced—which will likely fuel fresh concerns about the scale and accountability of the agency’s spy programs.

    A book published earlier this month, “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry,” contains revelations about the NSA’s snooping efforts, based on information gleaned from NSA sources. According to a detailed summary by Shane Harris at the Washingtonian yesterday, the book discloses that a codename for a controversial NSA surveillance program is “Ragtime”—and that as many as 50 companies have apparently participated, by providing data as part of a domestic collection initiative.

    Deep State, which was authored by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady, also offers insight into how the NSA deems individuals a potential threat. The agency uses an automated data-mining process based on “a computerized analysis that assigns probability scores to each potential target,” as Harris puts it in his summary. The domestic version of the program, dubbed “Ragtime-P,” can process as many as 50 different data sets at one time, focusing on international communications from or to the United States. Intercepted metadata, such as email headers showing “to” and “from” fields, is stored in a database called “Marina,” where it generally stays for five years.

    About three dozen NSA officials have access to Ragtime’s intercepted data on domestic counter-terrorism, the book claims, though outside the agency some 1000 people “are privy to the full details of the program.” Internally, the NSA apparently only employs four or five individuals as “compliance staff” to make sure the snooping is falling in line with laws and regulations. Another section of the Ragtime program, “Ragtime-A,” is said to involve U.S.-based interception of foreign counterterrorism data, while “Ragtime-B” collects data from foreign governments that transits through the U.S., and “Ragtime-C” monitors counter proliferation activity.

    Only very rarely do details of this nature surface, mainly due to the extreme secrecy that shrouds the NSA. In 2006, a whistleblower from AT&T made a sworn declaration in which he stated that the NSA was routing AT&T communications through a secret “secure room” where they could be intercepted. A former NSA employee said last year in his own sworn declaration, made as part of an ongoing legal case, that the spying described by the AT&T whistleblower involved the use of a “Semantic Traffic Analyser,” which would allow the NSA to mine “addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases” from within the data flowing through communication networks. Other previously disclosed NSA spy programs have been codenamed “ThinThread” and “Trailblazer.”

    On Tuesday, a group of civil rights groups, journalists, and lawyers lost the right to challenge the constitutionality of a so-called “warrantless wiretapping” law that allows the NSA to conduct eavesdropping on international communications. The plaintiffs’ argument failed largely on the grounds that they could not conclusively prove that they had been subject to surveillance. The Supreme Court, in a split 5-4 opinion, said that “it is highly speculative whether the government will imminently target communications to which respondents are parties.”

  3. When are Liberals going to wake up and realize that Obama is not one of them and actually works against them in reality.


  4. Betty, Obama is a lying weasel. He should be impeached. The entire Supreme Court should be impeached as well.
    This country has become a evil twin mockery of itself.

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