July 18, 2013 archive

That was quick.

Snowden’s surveillance leaks open way for challenges to programs’ constitutionality

By Jerry Markon, Washington Post

Published: July 15

(T)he legal landscape may be shifting, lawyers say, because the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and the principal source of the leaks, forced the government to acknowledge the programs and discuss them. That, they say, could help plaintiffs overcome government arguments that they lack the legal standing to sue or that cases should be thrown out because the programs are state secrets. A federal judge in California last week rejected the government’s argument that an earlier lawsuit over NSA surveillance should be dismissed on secrecy grounds.

“There is one critical difference from the Bush era. We now have indisputable physical evidence that the conduct being challenged is actually taking place,” said Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security law at American University law school. He said Snowden’s disclosures make it “more likely” that cases will at least be allowed to go forward in court, leading to a years-long legal battle over surveillance and privacy.

Steven G. Bradbury, a Washington lawyer and senior Justice Department official in that administration, expressed skepticism that the new lawsuits would turn out better than previous ones.

He said the plaintiffs would have difficulty showing that they specifically were harmed by the programs, because the data collection was so vast, and that judges could rule that government officials are immune from such suits. And even though Obama administration officials have discussed the programs, Bradbury said the government could still get cases thrown out under what is known as the state secrets privilege.

Created in the 1950s and rarely used until after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it allows officials to urge courts to dismiss cases on the grounds of potential damage to national security or foreign policy. “The further details of these programs are still state secrets,” Bradbury said.

Cindy Cohn, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said the state secrets argument doesn’t apply in cases involving electronic surveillance. She pointed to last week’s decision by a federal judge in California that rejected the government’s efforts to throw out on state secret grounds a 2008 lawsuit, brought by EFF, that includes earlier incarnations of the NSA’s surveillance programs, as well as current ones. The lawsuit is now proceeding.

Although other courts are not bound by the decision, Cohn said it could be a “tremendous boon” to plaintiffs in cases filed in the past month. “It’s tremendous, because anything that allows these cases to proceed is important,” she said.

She added that her organization plans to file a lawsuit this week stemming from Snowden’s recent revelations and that she has heard about at least two additional suits in the pipeline. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also has vowed to bring legal action against the government over its broad surveillance efforts; a spokeswoman for Paul said he is evaluating his options.

And lo it came to pass.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Sues NSA Over Surveillance

By Karen Gullo, Bloomberg News

Jul 16, 2013 1:58 PM ET

The lawsuit, filed today in federal court in San Francisco, focuses on warrantless collection of U.S. communications under an intelligence program partly disclosed by ex-government security contractor Edward Snowden and later acknowledged by the administration. The EFF sued on behalf of groups including Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace and Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Any judicial, executive or executive authorization” of the “Associational Tracking Program or the acquisition and retention of the communications information of plaintiffs, their members, and their staffs is unlawful and invalid,” EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said in the complaint.


The Continuing Erosion of Privacy

Millions of US license plates tracked and stored, new ACLU report finds

Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Wednesday 17 July 2013 10.07 EDT

Millions of Americans are having their movements tracked through automated scanning of their car license plates, with the records held often indefinitely in vast government and private databases.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union has found an alarming proliferation of databases across the US storing details of Americans’ locations. The technology is not confined to government agencies – private companies are also getting in on the act, with one firm National Vehicle Location Service holding more than 800m records of scanned license plates.

“License plate readers are the most pervasive method of location tracking that nobody has heard of,” said Catherine Crump, ACLU lawyer and lead author of the report. “They collect data on millions of Americans, the overwhelming number of whom are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Many police authorities have few or no regulations over use of the scanners other than that they should not be deployed to track people of personal interest such as spouses or friends. Pittsburg police department in California stated on the documents submitted to ACLU that the scanners can be used for “any routine patrol operation or criminal investigation – reasonable suspicion or probably cause is not required”. The police department in Scarsdale New York was glowing about the potential of the technology, saying the scanners had potential that “is only limited by the officer’s imagination”.

Boston Strangler: DNA testing of suspect’s corpse may lay identity to rest

Associated Press

Friday 12 July 2013 03.09 EDT

Investigators helped by advances in DNA technology finally have forensic evidence linking longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo to the last of the 1960s killings attributed to the Boston Strangler, leading many involved in the case to hope it can finally be put to rest.

DeSalvo’s family was outraged police secretly followed his nephew to collect DNA for new tests. Attorney Elaine Sharp said the family also believes there is still reasonable doubt he killed the Strangler’s last supposed victim.

NSA warned to rein in surveillance as agency reveals even greater scope

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Wednesday 17 July 2013 15.19 EDT

The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed.

John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.

A document published last month by the Guardian detailing the history of the NSA’s post-9/11 bulk surveillance on telephone and internet data refer to one- or two-hop analysis performed by NSA. The document, provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, does not explicitly mention three-hop analysis, nor does it clearly suggest that such analysis occurs.

Wednesday’s hearing was the second major public congressional hearing about the NSA’s surveillance activities since the Guardian and the Washington Post disclosed some of them in early June. Unlike the previous hearing on June 18 before the House intelligence committee, members of the House judiciary committee aggressively questioned senior officials from the NSA, FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

One senior member of the panel, congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the 2001 Patriot Act, warned the officials that unless they rein in the scope of their surveillance on Americans’ phone records, “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives” to renew the provision after its 2015 expiration.

(S)everal members of the committee, of both parties, said they were concerned not merely about the analysis of the phone records but about NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone data in the first place, without an individual suspicion of connections to terrorism.

“The statute says ‘collection’,” congressman Jerrold Nadler told Cole. “You’re trying to confuse us by talking use.”

Congressman Ted Poe, a judge, said: “I hope as we move forward as a Congress we rein in the idea that it’s OK to bruise the spirit of the constitution in the name of national security.”

Congressman Spencer Bachus said he “was not aware at all” of the extent of the surveillance, since the NSA programs were primarily briefed to the intelligence committees of the House and Senate.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren revealed that an annual report provided to Congress by the government about the phone-records collection, something cited by intelligence officials as an example of their disclosures to Congress, is “less than a single page and not more than eight sentences”.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, challenged Litt’s contention that the Fisa court was “not a rubber stamp” by way of a baseball analogy. Jeffries noted that some of the greatest hitters in baseball history – the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, the Red Sox’s Ted Williams, the Tigers’ Ty Cobb and the Yankees’ Babe Ruth – did not hit more than four balls safely per 10 times at bat, for career batting averages ranging from Musial’s .331 to Cobb’s .366.

He then noted that the Fisa court approves over 99% of government requests for surveillance – which would give the government a lifetime batting average of .999 – saying: “But you’ve taken the position that the Fisa court is an independent check.”

On This Day In History July 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 18 is the 199th day of the year (200th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 166 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who first took office in 1933 as America’s 32nd president, is nominated for an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt, a Democrat, would eventually be elected to a record four terms in office, the only U.S. president to serve more than two terms.

Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, and went on to serve as a New York state senator from 1911 to 1913, assistant secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920 and governor of New York from 1929 to 1932. In 1932, he defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover to be elected president for the first time. During his first term, Roosevelt enacted his New Deal social programs, which were aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression. In 1936, he won his second term in office by defeating Kansas governor Alf Landon in a landslide.

Election of 1940

The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after his presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, and both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term. FDR systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling for the nomination, including two cabinet members, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt’s campaign manager in 1932 and 1936, Postmaster General and Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the convention the opposition was poorly organized but Farley had packed the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run, unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loudspeaker screamed “We want Roosevelt… The world wants Roosevelt!” The delegates went wild and he was nominated by 946 to 147 on the first ballot. The tactic employed by Roosevelt was not entirely successful, as his goal had been to be drafted by acclamation. The new vice presidential nominee was Henry A. Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.

In his campaign against Republican Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt stressed both his proven leadership experience and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of war. In one of his speeches he declared to potential recruits that “you boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war.” He won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states. A shift to the left within the Administration was shown by the naming of Henry A. Wallace as Vice President in place of the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, who had become a bitter enemy of Roosevelt after 1937.

Late Night Karaoke

The Judge Nullified Florida Law To Free Zimmerman

Zimmerman Juror: Self-Defense Laws Should Be Changed After Trayvon Martin  Killing


Yes, this is the sweetie pie juror whose book will never be written but surprisingly she does have a case that the law the jurors were instructed in omitted a crucial first aggressor clause.  I have little doubt that a juror who thinks a man with a gun was screaming for help instead of the teenager he was about to shoot through the heart would have come to the same conclusion had she known the law as it is but was suppressed by the judge.


Well you can read about it at the link or elsewhere but I wonder if even Jimmy Carter cares.  After all it wasn’t one of his kind of kid that was killed.  Racist America divides people by skin color that is often completely imaginary.

As a believer in jury nullification it is most unlikely I would ever get on a jury for a case like this but I had never ever thought all that much about jurist nullification before.

Best,  Terry

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