The 9th Circuit has decided a pair of cases involving the NSA Surveillance Program.
In Jewel v. NSA, the 9th Circuit concluded that plaintiffs had standing to raise constitutional challenges against NSA telephone surveillance:
A while back, it was reported that the Bush Administration authorized the NSA to engage in warrantless wiretapping. Based on the information released so far, the program was likely illegal. Now, it appears that the warrantless wiretapping program (more innocuously renamed the “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” or “TSP”) is just the tip of a larger iceberg.
For the past several months, Congress has been wrangling over how to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow for the NSA warrantless surveillance program. The fact that the NSA surveillance program was clearly illegal — even under charitable creative dubiously-plausible fantastical interpretations of the law — seems to have quickly been forgotten. The focus now is on how to make it all legal. After all, if the President violates the law, it’s much easier to change the law than to do anything about it.
In Mayfield v. United States, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken (District of Oregon) held that parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which were altered by the USA Patriot Act in 2001, are unconstitutional. The case was brought by Brandon Mayfield, a who was put under extensive surveillance and then detained for two weeks because the FBI suspected him of involvement in the Madrid train bombing of 2004. The FBI thought Mayfield’s fingerprint was at the scene of the bombing, but it was gravely mistaken. According to the AP:
Congress recently passed a broad authorization of the NSA surveillance program, bowing to pressure from President Bush. From the New York Times:
Racing to complete a final rush of legislation before a scheduled monthlong break, the House voted 227 to 183 to endorse a measure the Bush administration said was needed to keep pace with communications technology in the effort to track terrorists overseas. . . .
There was no indication that lawmakers were responding to new intelligence warnings. Rather, Democrats were responding to administration pleas that a recent secret court ruling had created a legal obstacle in monitoring foreign communications relayed over the Internet.
They also appeared worried about the political repercussions of being perceived as interfering with intelligence gathering.
As many of the recent revelations of government surveillance and information gathering are revealing, government agencies such as the FBI and NSA are violating the law. Recently, the DOJ investigation into the FBI’s use of NSLs reveals many violations of law. So where are the penalties?
In the latest surveillance scandal, the FBI says that it is sorry. According to the New York Times:
For FISA surveillance orders, 2072 applications were made to the FISA court; none were denied. Over the past few years, the number of orders has been steadily increasing:
William Stuntz (law, Harvard) has long been advancing thoughtful provocative ideas about criminal procedure. I’ve always found Stuntz to be insightful even when I disagree (and I have disagreed with him a lot). Stuntz’s recent essay in The New Republic entitled Against Privacy and Transparency has me not just disagreeing, but doing so rather sharply.