The Fourth Amendment does not protect terrorists. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld George W. Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.
“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization.”
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses this, it is likely to stand.
This caught my attention.
The case concerned a lower court decision in which two American attorneys — who were working with the now-defunct al-Haramain Islamic Foundation — were awarded more than $20,000 each in damages and their lawyers $2.5 million in legal fees after a tortured legal battle where they proved they were spied on without warrants.
I see. The plaintiffs got $20,000 each. Their attorneys got $2.5 million.
Let’s think through the implications of these numbers. The real winners were the attorneys. Now they have lost. This will send a message to future attorneys: “Don’t take on declared terrorists as clients unless they pay up front.”
This means that you had better not be identified as a terrorist. If you are, your phone will be tapped.
The technical solution is Skype.
The San Francisco-based appeals court ruled that when Congress wrote the law regulating eavesdropping on Americans and spies, it never waived sovereign immunity in the section prohibiting targeting Americans without warrants. That means Congress did not allow for aggrieved Americans to sue the government, even if their constitutional rights were violated by the United States breaching its own wiretapping laws.
“Under this scheme, Al-Haramain can bring a suit for damages against the United States for use of the collected information, but cannot bring suit against the government for collection of the information itself,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the majority. She was joined by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins and Judge Harry Pregerson. ”Although such a structure may seem anomalous and even unfair, the policy judgment is one for Congress, not the courts.”
I can see a future Playboy story: “Federal Snoopers Run Wild!”
Judge Hawkins, during those arguments, noted that the law spells out that those who were illegally spied upon may seek monetary damages. But if Congress did not intend for the government to be sued, “it would make the remedy illusory,” Hawkins said.
Are we behind the looking glass this time, or merely in Wonderland?
The Bush spy program was first disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, and the government subsequently admitted that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on Americans’ telephone calls without warrants if the government believed the person on the other end was overseas and associated with terrorism. The government also secretly enlisted the help of major U.S. telecoms, including AT&T, to spy on Americans’ phone and internet communications without getting warrants as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law at the center of the al-Haramain dispute.
Skype. At least for now, the Feds can’t snoop when you use Skype. You can buy high definition Webcams for under $70.
Tech-savvy terrorists will figure this out.