Saturday, September 25, 2021
Home Search

Lawful interception - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

Vodafone privacy report reveals state access to its networks

The world’s second largest mobile phone group, Vodafone, has revealed the existence of secret permanent access to its networks from government agencies in at...

Woman arrested for filming police wins $57,000 settlement

One week after a federal appeals court ruled that citizens possess First Amendment rights to film cops, a police department in New Hampshire agreed...

Vodafone reveals network spying by states

Vodafone, one of the world's largest cellphone companies, has revealed the scope of government snooping into phone networks, saying authorities in some countries are...


USA Topics 9/11 Agenda 21 Assassinations Banks Bush, George Jr Boston Bombings Bohemian Grove CIA Cointelpro Corruption DARPA Democrats Disinformation Congress Drones Eugenics FBI Federal Reserve Guantanamo HAARP ...

The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother

Big Bro is watching you. Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products marketed by contractors to...

US eavesdropping on the whole world

How do U.S. intelligence agencies eavesdrop on the whole world? The ideal place to tap trans-border telecommunications is undersea cables that carry an estimated...

Glimmerglass Intercepts Undersea Cable Traffic for Spy Agencies

Glimmerglass, a northern California company that sells optical fiber technology, offers government agencies a software product called “CyberSweep” to intercept signals on undersea cables....

‘No stopping’ more Snowden revelations — Assange

RTJuly 1, 2013 NSA leaks will continue to be revealed, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has warned...

Gaza Flotilla Ship Al Awda Violently Seized by Israelis – Consortiumnews

Israeli forces have violently boarded a ship, being followed by Consortium News, that was headed to Gaza bringing humanitarian aid.  By...

MI6, MI5 & GCHQ in court over mass surveillance practices — RT UK News

The legality of British intelligence services’ mass surveillance programs will be assessed by the European...

The Kissinger Backchannel to Moscow

Exclusive: Major U.S. media outlets insinuate that President Trump’s advisers are traitors for secretly talking to Russians, but they ignore the...

Government’s sweeping spying powers face challenge in British court

Core parts of the UK’s new spying powers bill may soon be reviewed in court since civil rights NGO Liberty launched a crowd-funded legal...

MI5 was bulk collecting public’s data, with little or no oversight

MI5 was allowed to escape regular scrutiny of its bulk collection of communications data by the watchdog charged with overseeing it, newly-released confidential correspondence...

GCHQ spying on rights groups ‘illegal’

The GCHQ’s secret surveillance of two international human rights groups was illegal, according to the judicial tribunal handling complaints against the intelligence services. The government’s...

Supreme Court: Police retention of data on peaceful protester breaches privacy rights, but is...

Melanie Newman The Supreme Court has confirmed that where the state retains data on individuals without their consent, it is breaching their privacy rights, even when that...

George Galloway, Tom Newton Dunn and others: A list of current legal challenges to...

Melanie Newman The Bureau Investigates Reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Last autumn, the Bureau launched a legal challenge in the European Court of Human...

Intelligence agencies target and exploit legally privileged communications, tribunal hears

Tom Warren, Melanie Newman Intelligence agencies are intercepting privileged communications and have inadequate barriers in place to stop them being used in criminal and civil trials, a...

UK tribunal hears evidence of mass surveillance

Robert Stevens A five-day hearing before the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) on the operations of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spying operations concluded July...

GCHQ tribunal hears civil liberties legal challenge

​Civil liberties groups are making a legal challenge against the alleged use of mass surveillance by UK intelligence services. The tribunal follows revelations about UK...

Report: 9 out 10 Caught in NSA Dragnet Are ‘Ordinary People’

Washington Post reveals unprecedented look at how 'voyeuristic' spy agency manages private communications it collects Jon Queall New reporting by the Washington Post based on materials leaked by NSA whistleblower...

Every Internet user in the UK can be spied on without a warrant

Robert Stevens RINF  Alternative News The UK government has acknowledged that every UK citizen who uses Google and accesses web site services Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,...

34 International Experts Weigh in On Mass Surveillance on Snowden Anniversary

Today, a group of over 400 organizations and experts, along with 350,000 individuals, continue to rally in support of the 13 International Principles on the...

Digital Age Privacy Rights

Digital Age Privacy Rightsby Stephen LendmanArticle 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to ...

UN adopts resolution amid US scandal

The UN General Assembly has adopted an anti-spy resolution amid the US spying scandal. In the most vocal international criticism of US spying efforts,...

EDWARD SNOWDEN: Man of the Year

Alternative News Media Would Confer Highest Honor On Edward Snowden … If It Had One No one in modern history single-handedly altered the geo-political landscape of the...

NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

by Stephen Lendman

On December 5, the Washington Post broke the story. It headlined "NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show."

Doing so enables tracking individual movements. It maps their relationships. It does it in "previously unimaginable" ways.

NSA maintains a vast database. It's called FASCIA. It "stores information (on) locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices…"

New efforts analyze data collected. Doing so reflects mass global surveillance. NSA claims it doesn't target Americans willfully. It lied saying so.

"Incidental" whereabouts alone are tracked, it claims. WaPo said the term "connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result."

Previous articles explained how NSA operates lawlessly. It does so globally. It targets Americans. It does it willfully. It collects phone records of millions of AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications company customers.

It taps into central servers of nine or more US Internet companies. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others willingly cooperate.

Audio, video, photos, emails, text messages, and other personal information is collected. Doing so lets NSA track individual movements and contacts over time.

According to retired NSA/US Air Force/Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency analyst-turned whistleblower Russell Tice:

What's ongoing "is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."

It's been widely known for years. Little was revealed publicly. Pervasive spying is much worse than suspected.

Snowden released documents and others reflect the tip of the iceberg. Expect lots more revelations ahead. Newly revealed WaPo information is the latest.

An unnamed senior NSA collection manager said "we are getting vast volumes" of location data worldwide.

It's gotten by tapping into cables connecting global cell networks. They serve US cell phones and foreign ones.

Additional data is collected from "tens of millions of Americans" traveling abroad annually. According to WaPo:

"In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June." 

"Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them."

NSA wants global privacy eliminated. It wants total electronic information access. It wants it in America and abroad. 

It wants it everywhere. It wants it no matter who or where you are. It's well on the way to getting it.

NSA lies claiming mass surveillance is lawful. Robert Litt is Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel. 

He lied claiming "no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States."

Its most powerful analytic tools are collectively called "CO-TRAVELER." It enables bulk collections. It involves more than location information.

A portrait of travel times and people whose paths crossed is gotten. Doing so reveals physical interactions and relationships. It lets NSA know who we're with, where and when.

CO-TRAVELER permits looking for "unknown associates of known intelligence targets," said WaPo. It does so by "tracking people whose movements intersect."

Privacy advocates call aggregated location data over time uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical techniques are used.

They let NSA analysts map cell phone user relationships. They do so by correlating their movement patterns over time. They do it with up to millions of other cell users crossing their path.

Cell phones "broadcast their locations" even when not in use. Carrying one on your person tracks where you're going.

CO-TRAVELER and related tools involve methodically collecting and storing location data on "a planetary scale," said WaPo.

People are monitored in "confidential business meetings." Their medical, financial, and other private spaces are tracked.

Privacy practically no longer exists for anyone communicating electronically.

Chris Soghoian is principal ACLU technologist. "One of the key components of location data, and why it's so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don't let you keep it private," he said.

Emails can be encrypted, he added. Online identities can be disguised. "(T)he only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave."

Vast NSA data more than doubles Library of Congress print material. It's growing exponentially. It's so vast, it's "outpacing (its) ability to ingest, process and store" what's gotten. NSA is upgrading to greater capacity. 

Three US Democrat senators expressed concern. Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Udall (CO) and Barbara Milulski (MD) introduced a 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment.

It requires US intelligence agencies to say whether they ever collected or plan obtaining location data on "a large number of United States persons with no known connection to suspicious activity."

Americans tracked globally can't be determined from Snowden documents alone. Senior intelligence officials declined to estimate.

They claim no way to do it. Why not wasn't explained. An intelligence agency lawyer was cited. He doesn't respect constitutional law.

He claimed cell phone data monitoring doesn't violate Fourth Amendment rights. They protect against unlawful searches and seizures. 

Warrantless privacy invasions constitute gross Fourth Amendment violations. According to WaPo:

"(T)op secret briefing slides (show) NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major 'sigads,' or signals intelligence activity designators."

"A signad known as STORMBREW relies on two unnamed corporate partners." They're codenamed ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT.

Both companies administer NSA "physical systems (interception equipment). 'NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.' "

"STORMBREW collects data from 27 telephone links." They're called OPC/DPC pairs. They refer to originating and destination points.

They transfer traffic from one internal network to another. Cell tower identifiers are included. They're used to identify phone locations.

"The agency's access to carrier networks appears to be vast," WaPo explained. Computer and Information Science Professor Matt Blaze said:

"Many shared databases, such as those used for roaming, are available in their complete form to any carrier who requires access to any part of it."

"This 'flat' trust model means that a surprisingly large number of entities have access to data about customers that they never actually do business with, and an intelligence agency - hostile or friendly - can get 'one-stop shopping' to an expansive range of subscriber data just by compromising a few carriers."

NSA's location tracking capability is "staggering," added WaPo. It renders most communication security efforts "effectively futile."

Analytical tools map date, time, and location of cellphones. Patterns or significant overlap movements are monitored.

Other tools compute cell devices' speed and trajectory. Information gotten overlays electronic data on transportation maps. Likely travel time is determined to show which devices may have intersected. 

This report and previous ones reflect out-of-control NSA spying. It persists at home and abroad.

Thousands more Snowden documents remain to be released. Expect added proof of NSA lawlessness.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawsuits pressed courts to prohibit warrantless searches. Rulings were split.

In 2008, the Third Circuit US Appeals Court held that federal magistrates may require warrants based on probable cause. They may do so before permitting monitoring of phone location records.

Fifth and Sixth Circuit Court rulings approved warrantless seizures. The Supreme Court hasn't yet addressed the issue. It's important enough to do so. It's right wing judges may provide no relief.

At the same time, an earlier High Court ruling prohibited planting GPS devices on cars without warrants. It stopped short deciding whether warrantless tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights.

A Final Comment

On December 6, Russia Today (RT) headlined Sweden 'spied on Russian leaders for US.' "

Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) is involved. It monitors electronic communications.

FRA declined to comment. Its communications head, Anni Bolenius, said:

"We do in general have international cooperation with a number of countries, which is supported in Swedish legislation, but we do not comment on which ones we cooperate with."

Sweden's Sveriges Television (SVT) broke the story. Nils Hanson was involved. He's chief editor of SVT's "Mission: Investigate."

He told RT that FRA/NSA collaboration isn't new. "(N)ow we can show documents proving this relationship," he said.

Snowden provided them. "Sweden's 'cable access' made its position 'unique' in the eyes of the NSA," said RT. 

Sweden's FRA signal intelligence agency is a key NSA partner. According to one Snowden document:

"The FRA provided NSA unique collection on high-priority Russian targets, such as leadership, internal politics." NSA bosses were told to:

"Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership and counterintelligence."

"FRA's cable access has resulted in unique SIGINT reporting on all of these areas."

FRA authorization involves tracking "external threats" potentially affecting Sweden. It secret Defense Intelligence Court issues permits.

Targeting Russian leaders reflects doing so at NSA's behest. It suggests exceeding FRA's remit. 

Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials aren't threats. FRA has lots of explaining to do. Perhaps Moscow will demand answers.

Last April, Voice of Russia cited Julian Assange saying FRA intercepts 80% of Russian Internet traffic. It sells it to the NSA. 

It's further proof of Swedish/US collaboration against Russia. It shows hostile intent. It targets a friendly neighbor.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

NSA’s Secret Plan To Spy On Radicals’ Internet Porn Habits

In the recently published satirical novel by Dave Eggers The Circle, any politician or opponent of the omnipotent social media monolith that is at...

The legal attack on the NSA

PRISM is a 7-year-old NSA program in which the agency demands Internet data from carriers such as Google. A challenge to the National Security Agency's...

‘US against most of world again’

US officials�™ plan to destroy an international effort at the United Nations for promoting a universal human right to online privacy shows �œthe US...

America’s Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

The United States of America is shaping up as the evil totalitarian state of the 21st Century if this report from Foreign Policy‘s The...

US plans to kill online privacy right

A resolution submitted by Brazil and Germany to the UN General Assembly tries to promote a universal human right to online privacy. Washington and its...

Immune to Accountability: When Lawless Superpower USA Irks its European Allies

By Kourosh Ziabari The contemporary American scientist and award-winning author Glen David Brin once made an astutely brilliant statement, which he probably didn't know would...

The US Military Presence in Australia. The “Asia-Pacific Pivot” and “Global NATO”

Through the ANZUS alliance, Australia, like Japan and South Korea, has been a key part of the United States “hub-and-spokes” Asia-Pacific alliance structure for...

NSA Spies on Pope

NSA Spies on Pope

by Stephen Lendman

NSA spies on world leaders, so why not? Even the Holy See isn't spy proof. It's not off limits. 

Pope Francis is monitored. Most likely Benedict XVI. Perhaps John Paul II through at least some of his papacy. NSA spies globally. No one's safe from its intrusive eye.

On October 30, the Italian publication Panorama headlined "Esclusiva Panorama: Datagate, anche il Papa è stato intercettato (Exclusive Panorama: Datagate, even the Pope was intercepted).

Reuters covered the story. On October 30, it headlined "Italian magazine says US spies listened to pope, Vatican says unaware." 

Internal Vatican communications are monitored. So are phone calls from the Domus Sanctae Marthae. It's Pope Francis' current home. It's where cardinals reside during papal conclaves.

NSA's interest was monitoring "leadership intentions," financial system threats, "foreign policy objectives," and "human rights." Vatican Bank president Ernst von Freyberg's calls were intercepted.

Francis was monitored when he was Buenos Aires archbishop. Doing so suggests all high-ranking prelates are watched globally. 

US embassies virtually everywhere are infested with spies. They operate covertly as diplomatic staff. Snowden-released documents revealed Rome has an elite spying unit. So do other major European capitals.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: "We are not aware of anything on this issue, and in any case we have no concerns about it."

Whether or not Vatican officials knew is one thing. For sure, no one wants to be spied on.

NSA head Keith Alexander repeatedly lies. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is an admitted perjurer. Take everything they both say with a grain of salt.

On October 30, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines likely lied saying:

"The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has (done so), published by Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."

Allegations followed the Cryptome digital library web site reporting NSA collecting 124.8 billion phone calls monthly. It said 46 million were intercepted in Italy from December 2012 through early January 2013 alone.

Panorama said the "National Security Agency wiretapped the pope…(T)he great American ear" never sleeps. Calls to and from the Vatican are monitored. Big Brother intercepts prelate conversations routinely. 

For sure following Pope Benedict's February 28 resignation through the papal conclave convened to elect his successor. Conversations of future Pope Francis were likely monitored.

The former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a person of interest since at least 2005. He was considered a potential future papal candidate.

Sistine chapel discussions relating to electing new popes are especially kept secret. A special system scrambles cell phone calls. Anyone caught breaking the sacred trust faces excommunication.

NSA reportedly intercepted communications relating to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. It exposed high-level corruption. Documents were leaked to Italian journalists.

Paolo Gabriele became a person of interest. He was Benedict XVI's personal secretary. He leaked his confidential letters and memos.

They revealed papal finances, bribes, other corruption, and abuse of power. Gabriele was hung out to dry. He was arrested, tried and convicted. 

He got 18 months in prison. He was ordered to pay legal expenses. On December 22, 2012, Benedict pardoned him. 

Michael Parenti's "God and His Demons" makes compelling reading. He confronted the religious right, saying:

"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal." 

"As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god." 

"Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility." 

"At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways. In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."

"That 'old-time religion' is still very much with us and having a considerable impact on US political life."

Parenti was unforgiving. He challenged iconic religious figures. He exposed their dark sides. He included Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Tibetan Buddhism.

John Paul II "remained up to his ears in counter-revolutionary politics in Latin America and elsewhere," he said. 

He "directed no critical attacks against right-wing dictatorships." He called them "bulwarks against communist revolution."

He intervened on behalf of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet. At the time, he was under house arrest in London.

Parenti's book was written before Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. He was very much involved in Argentina's dirty war.

Prelates denouncing human rights abuses anywhere is considered taboo. Dirty war survivors accused Bergoglio of complicity with what demanded condemnation.

Vatican policy isn't pretty. Francis wasn't elected to change things. Washington wants policy everywhere kept in lockstep with US policy. 

NSA spying relates to discovering potential outliers. US policy makers can then act before harm is done.

Snowden documents revealed spying on millions of Italian citizens. It was thought perhaps popes and Vatican officials were off-limits. It bears repeating. NSA spies on world leaders.

Vatican city is a sovereign city-state. Popes have head of state status. They have diplomatic immunity like presidents and prime ministers. 

So do Vatican officials, papal nuncios, cardinals and other high-ranking Holy See Diplomatic Service prelates. They're more than religious figures. 

They're politically involved. They're well connected. What they say and think matters. They influence great numbers of parishioners.

Separately, Snowden documents revealed NSA secretly intercepted Google and Yahoo communication links connecting their global data centers. 

Doing so lets the agency keep track of hundreds of millions of user accounts. NSA's main tool is called MUSCULAR. It operates jointly with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

From undisclosed interception points, both agencies copy fiber-optic cable flows. Doing so complements NSA's PRISM. 

It has front-door access to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and other major online companies.

NSA can search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats. They're gotten directly from US provider servers. Doing so facilitates mass surveillance. NSA now has front and back-door access. It takes full advantage.

An NSA statement lied, saying:

it "focus(es) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only."

It "applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination."

NSA's mandate is "get it all." Everyone and everything are fair game. Congressional oversight is virtually nonexistent. Obama's in lockstep with NSA policy.

On December 4, 1981, Executive Order 12333, explained NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) responsibilities and purposes. 

It's to provide "(t)imely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States." 

"All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence available." Head of operations is charged with:

  • "Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
  • Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)

  • Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations."

On July 31, 2008, EO 12333 was amended to:

  • "Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;

  • Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)

  • Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections."

By law, NSA’s mission is limited to monitoring, collecting and analyzing foreign communications. Its dual missions include: 

  • the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and 

  • the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.

Rule of law principles are systematically spurned. It's more true now than ever. It's far worse than most people imagine. 

Anything goes reflects policy. NSA is a power unto itself. It does whatever it wants covertly. It does it globally. Obama continues what his predecessors began.

NSA's been around for decades. On June 1, 1952, Harry Truman authorized it. On November 4, 1952, it was established. Its earlier incarnation was a shadow of today's capabilities. Virtually nothing escapes its intrusive eye.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Google’s wide net of data-fishing could land it whopping fines

Google may be facing its toughest fight yet, as a series of court cases involving the company's casual wiretapping of the world's e-mails and...

XKeyscore: Instrument of Mass Surveillance

XKeyscore: Instrument of Mass Surveillance by Stephen Lendman Evidence mounts. America crossed the line. It operates lawlessly. It reflects police state ruthlessness. Big Brother's real. It's...

Revealed: NSA Program Collects 'Nearly Everything a User Does on the Internet'

One presentation claims the XKeyscore program covers 'nearly everything a typical user does on the internet'A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts...

Documents Show Undersea Cable Firms Provide Surveillance Access to US Secret State

Documents published last week by the Australian web site Crikey revealed that the US government “compelled Telstra and Hong Kong-based PCCW to give it access to...

Firms hire hackers in UK to steal data

A leaked secret report has implicated some of Britainâ„¢s most respected industries into routinely employing criminals to hack, blag and steal personal information on...

Boundless Informant: NSA’s complex tool for classifying global intelligence

A new batch of classified NSA docs leaked to the media reveals the details of a comprehensive piece of software used by NSA to...

The Monitoring of Our Phone Calls? Government Spooks May Be Listening

The Obama administration has been caught spying on the Verizon phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. The spying effort specifically targeted Americans...

Supreme Court Authorizes Lawless Wiretapping

America's Supremes are notoriously hard right. Equal justice under law is just a figure of speech. Rule of law principles and egalitarian fairness don't matter. Power politics corrupts the High Court. It lacks legitimacy.

Police State USA: Supreme Court upholds Secret Wiretaps

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Tuesday that a group of United States-based attorneys, journalists and human rights activists, along with their affiliated organizations, cannot sue to establish the unconstitutionality of a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The decision had nothing to do with the merits of the claim. Rather, the lawsuit was thrown out of court because the plaintiffs could not prove that the interception of their phone calls and emails was “certainly impending,” a legal standard never before imposed to deny someone the right to sue.

At the core of the majority decision, authored by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and joined by the other three extreme right-wing justices—Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas—along with the so-called “swing” voter, Justice Anthony A. Kennedy, is an obvious “Catch-22.” Because the law authorizes secret wiretaps, there is no way to prove who might be a victim, but only victims have legal “standing” to file lawsuits, and therefore nobody can bring a case for judicial review of the law’s constitutionality.

Clapper v. Amnesty International reverses a lower court ruling that said the lawsuit should go forward, in the process narrowing the doctrine of “standing” such that virtually all secret government activity can now be ruled immune from court challenges. In doing so, the Supreme Court majority adopted the positions urged by Obama administration lawyers in their briefs and at oral argument last October. (See, “Obama administration asserts unchecked powers”)

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution forbids warrantless eavesdropping. Congress enacted FISA in 1978 following Watergate-era exposures of widespread and unchecked government spying on United States citizens engaged in constitutionally protected political and cultural activities. FISA limits wiretaps to the acquisition of “foreign intelligence information” by targeting a “foreign government or agent” outside the United States. With a nod to the Fourth Amendment, FISA requires federal agents to obtain a warrant for the specific target and facility from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, DC, the proceedings of which are kept secret.

In 2008, Congress, with the support of key Democrats, amended FISA to eliminate the requirements that the target must be a specified “foreign power or an agent of a foreign power” and that the warrant application must identify the precise facility where the electronic surveillance is to take place. In effect, the 2008 FISA amendment authorizes “roving wiretaps” of communications between places in the United States and foreign countries that are essentially warrantless.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit less than an hour after then-president George Bush signed the FISA amendment into law, asking the federal district court in New York to declare the measure unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement.

The plaintiffs described themselves as persons and organizations who communicate by telephone and e-mail with people the government “believes or believed to be associated with terrorist organizations,” with “people located in geographic areas that are a special focus” of so-called “counterterrorism” efforts, and with “activists who oppose governments supported by the United States.”

To establish standing under the law as it then existed, the plaintiffs alleged a series of specific injuries flowing from the FISA amendment, such as the fact that the threat of secret wiretapping interferes with lawyers locating and interviewing witnesses or advising clients in confidence, journalists cultivating confidential sources to obtain information for news reports, and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International interacting with foreign contacts. The threat of surveillance compelled some plaintiffs to travel abroad for in-person conversations, and others to undertake “costly and burdensome measures” to protect the confidentiality of sensitive communications.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which includes New York City, ruled that the plaintiffs’ allegations establish “an objectively reasonable likelihood that their communications will be intercepted” and therefore gave them standing to challenge the FISA amendment’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court majority reversed this ruling.

Alito’s majority opinion dramatically raised the bar for determining legal standing, ruling that the plaintiffs had to demonstrate “the threatened injury must be certainly impending ” (the italics are Alito’s), resurrecting a phrase from a long-forgotten 1923 opinion that actually found that the plaintiff in the case had standing on the basis that “one does not have to await the consummation of threatened injury to obtain preventive relief.”

The “certainly impending” language has never previously been used by the Supreme Court to deny a plaintiff standing in any case, much less one challenging the constitutionality of a clandestine government program where the evidence to meet such a standard is, by definition, unavailable.

Alito went on, at considerable length, to discount the plaintiffs’ claims that their communications would likely be intercepted as “highly speculative” and “relying on a highly attenuated chain of possibilities.” Alito seemed to taunt the plaintiffs for the absence of “any evidence that their communications have been monitored” under a secret program put into effect the day their lawsuit was filed, calling it “a failure that substantially undermines their standing theory.”

“Simply put,” Alito wrote, the plaintiffs “can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target,” and “even if [the plaintiffs] could demonstrate that the targeting of their foreign contacts is imminent, [they] can only speculate as to whether the Government will seek to use [FISA] surveillance (rather than other methods) to do so.”

In other words, the spy program’s secrecy—which is what chills the plaintiffs’ exercise of their rights in the first place—is precisely what prevents anyone from seeking review of its constitutionality.

Alito next demeaned the plaintiffs’ claims that the threat of surveillance forced them to travel and to undertake other expensive precautions to protect the confidentiality of their communications as “self-inflicted injuries” that, somehow, “are not fairly traceable” to the secret wiretapping program.

Finally, Alito wrote that even if “no one would have standing is not a reason to find standing,” meaning that the Supreme Court could insulate the secret wiretapping program from all court challenges. Underscoring his contempt for the basic democratic right of people to challenge governmental action in court, Alito concluded that “any dissatisfaction” the plaintiffs had with the new law or the secret rulings of the FISA court “is irrelevant to our standing analysis.”

Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by the other three moderate justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, pointing out the many Supreme Court precedents which give the plaintiffs standing to bring suit. The dissent explicitly declined to address the constitutionality of the FISA amendment itself, however.

Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and the lawyer for the plaintiffs, issued a statement calling the ruling “disturbing” because it denies “meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches.”

“More than a decade after 9/11,” Jaffer added, “we still have no judicial ruling on the lawfulness of torture, of extraordinary rendition, of targeted killings or of the warrantless wiretapping program. These programs were all contested in the public sphere, but they have not been contested in the courts.”

In contrast, the spokesperson for the Department of Justice praised the majority decision, stating that the government was “obviously pleased” with the denial of standing to the plaintiffs.

Equally obvious is the fact that the Obama administration—to no less a degree than the administration of George Bush—is developing increasingly authoritarian forms of rule in conjunction with the Supreme Court.

Arguments in Supreme Court warrantless spying case

Tom Carter, WSWS | On October 29, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the power asserted by the Bush and...

Workplace surveillance – know your rights

With CCTV cameras everywhere you go these days, how likely is it that your employer or client will be keeping an eye on you? Basically,...

Government replies to EU legal challenge on Phorm

The government has replied to a legal challenge from the European Commission (EC) over the online advertising technology Phorm. Phorm provides a model that allows...

Privacy: British Government Refuses To Investigate Phorm

By Tom Espiner | The Prime Minister's Office has rebuffed a public call for a government investigation into Phorm, saying that the independent Information...

Web Spy Agency Denies Spying

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has denied that it plans to monitor all web and telephone usage in the UK. The denial comes after...

The Home Office Helped Phorm To Spy On You

RINF News Emails secured through an Freedom of Information Act request show exchanges between the British Home Office and Phorm, a highly controversial advertising company that secretly worked...

EC takes action against the UK over its handling of personal data protection

The European Commission (EC) last week launched an infringement proceeding against the UK over e-privacy and personal data protection. This came following BT's launch...

Labour is stifling the right to protest

The news that government officials have been passing intelligence on climate change activists to a power company serves to underline the unhealthy closeness between...

Watching the watchers – online behaviour and privacy

Recent developments in behavioural or personalised internet advertising have prompted much debate and press coverage.  For example, it was reported in September last year that...

UK government fined for violation of right to privacy

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights has ordered the British government to pay €7,500 in costs and expenses to the UK human rights organisation...

Widespread bugging by authorities

The inside story of how and why one MP was bugged reveals that eavesdropping by the authorities in Britain is far more widespread than...

UK government accessing telephone records

Indymedia At the beginning of October, the Labour government “activated” part three of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) granting various branches of...