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Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their annual photo, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.
Washington - The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails.
The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote that divided along ideological lines, probably means the Supreme Court will never rule on the constitutionality of that 2008 law.
More broadly, the ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones, in light of the combination of government secrecy and judicial doctrines limiting access to the courts.
“Absent a radical sea change from the courts, or more likely intervention from the Congress, the coffin is slamming shut on the ability of private citizens and civil liberties groups to challenge government counterterrorism policies, with the possible exception of Guantánamo,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at American University.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates who challenged the constitutionality of the law could not show they had been harmed by it and so lacked standing to sue. The plaintiffs’ fear that they would be subject to surveillance in the future was too speculative to establish standing, he wrote.
Justice Alito also rejected arguments based on the steps the plaintiffs had taken to escape surveillance, including traveling to meet sources and clients in person rather than talking to them over the phone or sending e-mails. “They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms,” he wrote of the plaintiffs.
It is of no moment, Justice Alito wrote, that only the government knows for sure whether the plaintiffs’ communications have been intercepted. It is the plaintiffs’ burden, he wrote, to prove they have standing “by pointing to specific facts, not the government’s burden to disprove standing by revealing details of its surveillance priorities.”
In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the harm claimed by the plaintiffs was not speculative. “Indeed,” he wrote, “it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.”
Under the system of warrantless surveillance that was put in place by the Bush administration shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, aspects of which remain secret, the National Security Agency was authorized to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails without a warrant.
After The New York Times disclosed the program in 2005 and questions were raised about its constitutionality, Congress in 2008 amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, granting broad power to the executive branch to conduct surveillance aimed at persons overseas without an individual warrant.
The Obama administration defended the law in court, and a Justice Department spokesman said the government was “obviously pleased with the ruling.”
The decision, Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, arose from a challenge to the 2008 law by Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups and individuals, including journalists and lawyers who represent prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The plaintiffs said the law violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, by allowing the government to intercept their international telephone calls and e-mails.
Justice Alito said the program was subject to significant safeguards, including supervision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret, and restrictions on what may be done with “nonpublic information about unconsenting U.S. persons.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.
Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., said the decision “insulates the statute from meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches.”
Justice Alito wrote that the prospect that no court may ever review the surveillance program was irrelevant to analyzing whether the plaintiffs had standing. But he added that the secret court does supervise the surveillance program.
It is also at least theoretically possible, he added, that the government will try to use information gathered from the program in an ordinary criminal prosecution and thus perhaps allow an argument “for a claim of standing on the part of the attorney” for the defendant.
Mr. Jaffer said the situations were far-fetched.
“Justice Alito’s opinion for the court seems to be based on the theory that the secret court may one day, in some as-yet unimagined case, subject the law to constitutional review, but that day may never come,” Mr. Jaffer said. In many national security cases, he added, the government has prevailed at the outset by citing lack of standing, the state secrets doctrine or officials’ immunity from suit.
“More than a decade after 9/11,” he said, “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.”
James Risen and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.
â€œWhat happened in the courtroom [on Jan. 28] was shocking. There was a wizard behind the curtain who had the power to completely cut off the audio feed to the proceedings, to censor what was being said in court. It would be foolish for us to not consider that capability in other areas where we interact with the accused.â€
- One count of "conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse."
- Eight counts of "accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain."
- Fourteen counts of "transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers."
- Six counts of "aggravated identify theft."
- One count of "economic espionage."
- One count of "trade secret theft."
By Susan Duclos
The Obama administration is playing a very dangerous game with Russia, destabilizing the Ukraine, helping oust a Moscow-backed president from power to insert a pro-western puppet, then threatening Russia's President Vladimir Putin when it becomes apparent that he may involve the Russian military.
The Obama administration warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday not to react too aggressively to the fast-moving developments in Ukraine, where pro-Western demonstrators forced the nation’s Moscow-backed president from power over the weekend.
National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice said the situation unfolding in Kiev “reflects the will of the Ukrainian people and the interests of the United States and Europe,” and that Russia would be making a “grave mistake” if it sends in military forces to try to reverse the developments — or to seize control of pro-Moscow eastern Ukraine.
In response, a Russian spy ship, with electronic eavesdropping equipment and weaponry, including AK-630 rapid-fire cannons and surface-to-air missiles, parks itself within firing distance to the US, in Havana Cuba.
We already know from previous reports that Russian troops have trained on US soil for the first time, in 2012. Arrangements have been made to have Russians "help" in emergency situations on US soil, meaning they have to be close enough to be part of the first response teams and that is public knowledge.
Consider how open our borders are and we truly have no idea how many private, covert operatives are in the US just waiting for orders should a war start between the US and Russia.
We also do not know what their battle plans are and how they have changed after our interference and likely our help in destabilizing the Ukraine, as we did in Syria and Egypt.
Will the Ukraine be the match that lights the powder keg just waiting to blow?
Cross posted at Before It's News
- "Theft of government property;
- Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information (and)
- Willful Communication of Classified Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person."
If you live in the United States, you live in a high tech surveillance grid that is becoming more oppressive with each passing day. In America today, the control freaks that run things are completely obsessed with watching, tracking, monitoring and recording virtually everything that we do. If we continue on the path that [...]
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Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
The environmental fascists believe that if people are allowed to have large amounts of freedom and liberty that the planet will literally be destroyed. That sounds crazy, but that is what they actually believe. Left to our own devices, they are fully convinced that global warming and out of control pollution will transform the earth into an uninhabitable hellhole. Therefore, they believe that it has become necessary to strictly manage human behavior “for the good of the environment”. With each passing year, the control of the social planners gets even tighter. Today, they have banned certain kinds of light bulbs, they are putting mandatory “smart meters” into our homes, and they have instituted all kinds of ridiculous regulations concerning what you can do with your own land. Tomorrow, they plan to put “black boxes” into our vehicles and move most of us into “stack-and-pack” housing that has communal bathrooms and no elevators. There is a reason why these people are called ecofascists. The “true believers” of the environmental fascism movement actually believe that they are “saving the world” by being control freaks. They truly believe that they know better than the rest of us, and they love to get into positions of political power so that they can impose their will on everyone around them.
The environmental fascists are constantly “pushing the envelope” and doing whatever they can to use the power of the government to impose new rules on all the rest of us. Most of the time, Americans just take it without ever fighting back. For example, a car wash for a high school cheerleading squad was recently shut down because the cheerleaders were “in violation of water discharge laws“…
It’s hard to wave your spirit fingers when the city shuts down the cheerleading squad’s fundraising car wash to protect the environment.
This is what happened to Lincoln High School cheerleaders trying to raise money to attend a national competition in April. The San Jose Mercury reports that local environmental officials warned the high school cheerleaders that their car wash violated the city’s water discharge laws.
“We had a visit from the city of San Jose Environmental Services Department who said that the car washes at Hoover [Middle School] are in violation of water discharge laws, therefore we had to cancel this and all future car washes,” said an email that was sent out to neighborhood email lists on Oct. 18.
Fortunately, there are some Americans that are still willing to stand up and fight back against this emerging ecofascism. A recent Businessweek article profiled one north Idaho couple that is vigorously fighting back against the ridiculous demands of the EPA…
Four years ago the Sacketts were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a simple three-bedroom home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Then three federal officials showed up and demanded they stop construction. The agency claimed the .63-acre lot was a wetland, protected under the Clean Water Act.
The Sacketts say they were stunned. The owners of an excavation company, they had secured all the necessary local permits. And Chantell Sackett says that before work began, she drove two hours to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to consult with an Army Corps of Engineers official. She says the official told her orally, though not in writing, that she didn’t need a federal permit. “We did all the right things,” she says.
The EPA issued an order requiring the Sacketts to put the land back the way it was, removing the piles of fill material and replanting the vegetation they had cleared away. The property was to be fenced off and the Sacketts would be required to submit annual reports about its condition to the EPA. The agency threatened to fine them up to $32,500 a day until they complied.
Sadly, this kind of thing is happening all over the nation. The EPA is completely and totally out of control, and they seem to be obsessed with making life absolute hell for farmers and private landowners.
But over in Europe, environmental fascism is actually even worse than it is in the United States. In fact, one new regulation that was recently implemented bans Europeans from owning large vacuum cleaners…
Incandescent light bulbs have already been removed from the shelves. Next being removed are larger size vacuum cleaners. Germany’s online flagship daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports: “Beginning September 2014 in the EU only vacuum cleaners that consume less than 1600 watts may be sold. From 2017 only a maximum of 900 watts will be allowed.”
Ultimately, the ecofascists intend to manage virtually every detail of our lives, because literally everything that we do “affects the environment” in some way.
According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the next things they hope to do is to put “black boxes” in our vehicles that they can use to tax us and track the “damage” that we are doing to the environment…
As America’s road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.
The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.
The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.
What I find humorous about the above excerpt is that the L.A. Times is trying to get us to believe that this is something that “libertarians” actually want.
Another thing that the ecofascists have planned for the future is to move much of the population into “eco-friendly” stack-and-pack living environments. These stack-and-pack living environments were described in a recent article by Suzanne Eovaldi…
A typical stack-and-pack living area in the 200 square foot APodment bulding in Sammamish, WA is already developed. Occupant Judy Green (Seattle Times 5-12-13) “shares the kitchen with seven other tenants on the second floor.” With no elevators, she has to walk up and down six flights of stairs to get to her loft! Bathrooms often are communal; no or few cars are allowed because of global warming.
The ultimate goal is for the government to watch, track, monitor and control everything that we do “for the good of humanity”.
And of course this emerging “Big Brother” control grid has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, it is being reported that the United States spied on 60 million Spanish phone calls in just one single month recently, and according to CNN, the U.S. had even been spying on the private phone conversations of 35 foreign leaders…
The release of further allegations of National Security Agency surveillance efforts caused the Spanish government to summon the U.S. ambassador Monday, and The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House ordered a halt to some eavesdropping on foreign leaders after learning of it this summer.
Quoting unidentified U.S. officials, the newspaper’s website said the wiretapping of about 35 foreign leaders was disclosed to the White House as part of a review of surveillance programs ordered by President Barack Obama after NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information on the NSA’s phone monitoring systems.
The White House ordered a halt to the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and unspecified other leaders, the newspaper reported. The Journal report did not specify who gave the shutdown order or the date it was issued.
And this “control grid” is getting much tighter and much more oppressive on the local level as well. For example, just check out what happened to one Texas woman recently…
A Texas woman was arrested, strip-searched and jailed for an overdue traffic ticket Wednesday, a local CBS affiliate first reported.
Sarah Boaz said she was cuffed outside her Richland Hills home by an officer who was waiting for her when she stepped out to go to work, the New York Daily News reported.
The officer told her a warrant had been issued for her arrest after she failed to pay a summons for running a stop sign in August. Mrs. Boaz admitted that she didn’t pay the fine because she lost the summons.
“I’m like nobody puts out a bench warrant after 60 days,” she told the Daily News. “Why would you do that?”
Mrs. Boaz said she was forced to step into a jail cell and remove her clothes for a search. Her family bailed her out within a couple of hours.
When most people read about stuff like this, they are absolutely outraged.
But the ecofascists actually love this kind of stuff. They want an all-powerful government that will have the power to force people to do “what is right for the environment”. In fact, many of them actually believe that the planet will not survive if government does not behave in such a manner.
In the end, they are not going to settle for anything less than total control. They want to control where you live, what kind of work you do, what kind of transportation you use and even how many children you have.
It is a totalitarian system wrapped up in a “save the world” package.
And right now, the ecofascists are steadily gaining ground. If they are going to be defeated, people need to start standing up for freedom and liberty while they still can.