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.”
Alito 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