In a ruling handed down Tuesday, a federal district judge in California refused to rule that NSA collection of Internet and phone content without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment, and dismissed part of a lawsuit challenging the spy agency program.
Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit and held that even if they could establish standing, the court could not consider the Fourth Amendment ramifications of the program without threatening national security.
Having reviewed the Government Defendants’ classified submissions, the Court finds that the Claim must be dismissed because even if Plaintiffs could establish standing, a potential Fourth Amendment Claim would have to be dismissed on the basis that any possible defenses would require impermissible disclosure of state secret information.
In other words, the perceived need for government secrecy trumps the Constitution. Here we have a crime so secret, we can’t even attempt to prosecute it.
According to Dustin Volz of the National Journal, White also held that the arguments made by the plaintiffs weren’t factually correct. But the judge didn’t reveal what the Electronic Frontier Foundation got wrong in its filing, again citing “national security.”
The Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to proffer sufficient admissible evidence to support standing on their claim for a Fourth Amendment violation of interference with their Internet communications…In addition, without disclosing any of the classified content … the Court can confirm that the Plaintiffs’ version of the significant operational details of the Upstream collection process is substantially inaccurate.
The EFF filed Jewel v. NSA, on behalf of AT&T customer Carolyn Jewel in 2008. The digital rights group amended the lawsuit to include revelations brought to light by Eric Snowden, the Guardian and other sources.
This ruling once again demonstrates that we cannot depend on the federal courts to rein in NSA spying. Lawsuits rarely end well for those trying to protect civil liberties and limit federal power, especially when the feds cry “national security.” That Siren’s call almost always entices judges to defer to government wishes. National security even served as a rational to lock up Japanese-American behind barbed wire during World War II.
Simply put, the federal government doesn’t limit itself.
The inside the Beltway strategy to stop unconstitutional spying fails us time after time. Forty years after Sen. Frank Church warned that the American surveillance state could lead to “total tyranny” Congress has done nothing but further empower spy agencies like the NSA. The president plays lip service to reforms, but never comes through with anything substantial. And the courts defer to federal national security concerns over and over.
OffNow has a different approach. Attack the surveillance state through state action. The feds depend on state resources and material support to continue their illegal spying. By simply refusing to cooperate, states can legitimately obstruct it.
But we need your help. Americans concerned about privacy have spent way too much time and energy on failed strategies in Washington D.C. We need to turn our attention to ongoing efforts at the state level.