Freedom/Privacy

Appeals court nixes lawsuit against warrantless spy program

By Martin Bosworth

Read it and weep:

CINCINNATI – A federal appeals court on Friday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging President Bush‘s domestic spying program, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.

The 2-1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel was not on the legality of the surveillance program. But it vacated an order by a lower court in Detroit last Augist that the post-911 warrantless surveillance aimed at uncovering terrorist activity was unconstitutional, violating rights to privacy and free speech and the separation of powers.

The American Civil Liberties Union led the suit on behalf of other groups including lawyers, journalists and scholars it says have been handicapped in doing their jobs by the government monitoring.

The case will be sent back to the U.S. District judge in Michigan for dismissal.

This ruling comes on the heels of the July 3 decision that national security trumped the public interest in the NYT’s quest for classified materials relating to the program. Although Sen. Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers have both pushed ahead with plans to investigate and get answers about these mysterious and illegal programs, the Bush regime has signaled in no uncertain terms how little they care about the government process of oversight.

I think this is what my friends talk about when they express their feelings of powerless and impotence against the government. We’ve basically watched this corrupt regime destroy our rights and trample on the Constitution, and every form of redress we pursue is either nixed, ignored, or disputed.

I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me these dismissals are being predicated on the idea that harm can’t be proven–if you aren’t a terrorist and you weren’t arrested or implicated by these plans, how can you prove you’re affected? Glenn Greenwald dismantles that line of reasoning with his usual eloquence:

The whole point of FISA, as Shane recognized when we spoke, is that we do not trust government leaders to eavesdrop on us in secret precisely because those powers were continuously abused when exercised with no oversight. Indeed, as Shane himself recognizes in the article, that is exactly what the CIA’s “family jewels” demonstrate. For exactly that reason, upon finding out that the President broke the law by eavesdropping on us with no oversight, the assumption ought to be that these powers were abused, rather than to assume that we can simply blindly trust their good faith. At the very least, it is ludicrous to simply take the word of the lawbreakers that they did nothing wrong.

The Constitution was written with the guiding principle of ensuring that individual Americans’ rights and responsibilities were always to be upheld, even at the cost of the larger governing body. The Fourth Amendment, in particular, was written to ensure the young nation’s people would be safe from violation of their persons and their privacy:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

And now, yet again, we are told this right no longer exists and that the “national security” takes precedence over the security of individuals. It’s a conundrum so absurd you have to laugh–you can’t prove a program is harmful because it’s secret, and yet the very secrecy of the program IS what’s harmful.

The Bush regime has lost the right to be trusted or granted the benefit of the doubt. They have spent the last six years breaking the law and violating the Constitution. This isn’t even a case of “Gotcha!” like Scooter Libby–this is a clear-cut case of violation of the oath that Bush swore on when he was inaugurated. And we’re being told we have no choice but to let it happen.

Unacceptable. Unconscionable. And unforgivable.

Nancy Pelosi, I doubt you’re reading this, but if you are–THIS is what we mean when we express our anger at the idea that impeachment is off the table. It’s been made abundantly clear that we, as citizens, have no power to seek redress against our government in the court anymore (A clear effect of the appointment of right-wing judges, as my colleague Robert pointed out), so it’s up to you. Make this happen.

Find us justice. We demand it. We deserve it. And we will not wait forever.

UPDATE: Here’s a more in-depth article explaining what happened:

U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, one of the two Republican appointees who ruled against the plaintiffs, said they failed to show they were subject to the surveillance.

The dissenting judge, Democratic appointee Ronald Lee Gilman, believed the plaintiffs were within their rights to sue and that it was clear to him the program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

Nothing partisan about that. No sir. Nothing to see here.

UPDATE 2: Spencer Ackerman over at TPM Muckraker reports that the ACLU may take this up to the Supreme Court. The ACLU is relentless on these matters, but even they might be phased by the conservative stonewall that is the Roberts court. But it has to be attempted.

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