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Two Groups File Domestic Spying Lawsuits 770

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the at-least-we-still-have-private-thoughts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU both recently filed lawsuits, in New York and Detroit respectively, claiming that President Bush's electronic eavsdropping program is illegal and exceeds his constitutional powers. From the article: 'The Detroit [ACLU] lawsuit, which names the National Security Agency and its director, said the program has impaired plaintiffs' ability to gather information from sources abroad as they try to locate witnesses, represent clients, do research or engage in advocacy.'
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Two Groups File Domestic Spying Lawsuits

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:32AM (#14498413) Journal
    Now, I'm sure there's much to be debated about whether or not the ACLU [aclu.org] should be taking this action and suing the NSA. Frankly, I'm not sure if this lawsuit is called for or not. It could just be a waste of a government agency's time but the courts will throw it out if that is the case. I'm pretty sure it's not--I'm pretty sure this will be heard in a court of law but the ACLU just won't get anywhere.

    Now, I've heard a lot of talk among people of the ACLU being a crazy leftist organization that's terribly out of touch with reality. But, no matter who you are, you have to admit that the ACLU prevents you from losing anything that might be considered a civil liberty.

    No one can argue, this group pushes back so hard against the government even when it comes to something like domestic spying on a relatively small part of the population. They put forth such an effort that I'm sure if any member of the government is about to make a decision about our rights they are probably thinking, "If I do this, the ACLU is going to be all over me in the press ..."

    And that's why I love the ACLU. Because I can sit on my fat ass and not have to worry about the government getting carried away.
    • by ezzzD55J (697465)
      And that's why I love the ACLU. Because I can sit on my fat ass and not have to worry about the government getting carried away.

      My goodness. It seems you are suggesting the (us) government is not getting carried away, while they are, in fact, already carried all the way.

      • My goodness. It seems you are suggesting the (us) government is not getting carried away, while they are, in fact, already carried all the way.

        Oh, after reading about other governments present and past, the U.S. government is by no means "all the way."

        "All the way" is Slashdot's server's IP log being requisitioned by the government whereby, shortly after, you and all your family members and friends are nowhere to be found. Afterall, the easiest way to maintain 100% public approval is simply to remo

        • by tpgp (48001) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:06AM (#14498566) Homepage
          My goodness. It seems you are suggesting the (us) government is not getting carried away, while they are, in fact, already carried all the way.
          Oh, after reading about other governments present and past, the U.S. government is by no means "all the way."

          Well - as long as you're happy with the new US motto:

          America: still more rights then North Korea
        • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@NoSpam.neverbox.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @10:46AM (#14499244) Homepage
          "All the way" is Slashdot's server's IP log being requisitioned by the government whereby,

          They, a) can already do this, /. would be barred by law from telling anyone, thanks to the PATRIOT act, and b) probably don't need to 'requisition' anything thanks to the NSA. They've only admitted to scanning email, but scanning traffic on port 80 looking for a POST is a trivial addition.

          shortly after, you and all your family members and friends are nowhere to be found.

          They have, indeed, asserted the right to lock people up without charging them with anything, without access to a lawyer, and without telling anyone.

          Basically, the different between now and the world you describe is they haven't chosen to do that to you. They do, indeed, claim they have the right.

          • I'm happy to see that someone is willing to step up and point this out. Dealing with the people who insist that being more free than absolute detention camps equates to acceptable government has always been a difficult discussion.

            Could we refine this to be more broadly applicable and publicly known?
        • by phoenix.bam! (642635) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @10:51AM (#14499291)
          Of course by your own definition of "All the way" we'd never know when we got there and by that time it would be too late.
    • by Erwos (553607)
      "But, no matter who you are, you have to admit that the ACLU prevents you from losing anything that might be considered a civil liberty."

      Unless, of course, you're talking about the right to own a gun. The ACLU doesn't care much about that particular civil liberty. Or freedom from racism - unless you're a non-white-male.

      The ACLU picks and chooses its issues. That's just not something you can deny. When the group first started, they were a lot more impartial. Back in the 1970s, when their membership became mo
      • by Erwos (553607)
        I forgot to say it, but "freedom from racism" is actually a civil right, not a civil liberty. They're not quite the same thing.

        -Erwos
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:21AM (#14498639)
        Unless, of course, you're talking about the right to own a gun.

        The NRA has something like 10x the operating budget of the ACLU. So even if the ALCU's position on the issue was "liberal" (supporting gun rights above and beyond the literal wording of the constitution), the 2nd Amendment wouldn't be smart place to spend their resources. I covered all bases by joining both organizations.
      • by EllisDees (268037) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @10:04AM (#14498916)
        >Unless, of course, you're talking about the right to own a gun. The ACLU doesn't care much about that particular civil liberty.

        There is already a powerful organization dedicated to protecting that particular civil liberty, so why should the ACLU waste resources doing the same?
      • by mrtrumbe (412155)
        Unless, of course, you're talking about the right to own a gun. The ACLU doesn't care much about that particular civil liberty

        Following years of supreme court decisions upholding gun control laws, it is plausible to say that the right to bear arms is not absolute. That is the position the ACLU takes on the issue. I personally oppose most gun control laws, though not from a rights stance, rather from a practicality and harm-reduction stance.

        Contrast this with years of supreme court decisions upholding f

    • no matter who you are, you have to admit that the ACLU prevents you from losing anything that might be considered a civil liberty.

      The ACLU is a left wing organization, and their actions show it. On some issues, such as the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."), they argue and stretch the meaning beyond the clear wording (i.e. States are not "Congress," so the prohibition does not apply to State establishment of religion, although most states have similar C

      • The Seond Amendment does not recognize an individual right. If you're going to insist that we strictly hew to the words of the First Amendment you must do the same for the Second. The words "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state" must also have a meaning. The way I take it, the government has the duty to establish a "well regulated militia" and all members of that militia have the right to keep and bear arms. This clearly recognizes the possibility that individuals ma
        • You're wrong... (Score:3, Informative)

          by msauve (701917)
          even though interpreting that clause requires only a basic understanding of the English language.

          "This argument misunderstands the proper role of such prefatory declarations in interpreting the operative language of a provision. A preface can illuminate operative language but is ultimately subordinate to it and cannot restrict it."

          -"A Well Regulated Militia, being Necessary to the Security of a Free State" [usdoj.gov]

        • "The words 'A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state' must also have a meaning. The way I take it, the government has the duty to establish a 'well regulated militia'"

          That's the way YOU take it, but that's not the way it's written. Clearly, the 2nd Amendment makes absolutely NO mention of who exactly will organize this "well regulated militia", it just says "we need one". So no, it is erroneous to just assume that the government is the entity that shall organize and co

      • by hamburger lady (218108) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:28AM (#14498682)
        On some issues, such as the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."), they argue and stretch the meaning beyond the clear wording (i.e. States are not "Congress," so the prohibition does not apply to State establishment of religion, although most states have similar Constitutional prohibitions).

        actually, the prohibition does apply to the states, thanks to the 14th amendment.

        In other matters, such as the Second Amendment, they argue against civil liberties in opposition to the clear wording and intent ("..the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."), by arguing it somehow doesn't recognize an individual right.

        which is consistent with decades of SCOTUS decisions. it aint a winner, and the ACLU knows it.
    • by Dausha (546002)
      "But, no matter who you are, you have to admit that the ACLU prevents you from losing anything that might be considered a civil liberty."

      So, they champion my rights under the Second Amendment to keep a firearm? I don't think so. And, amongst all the rights, that one is perhaps the most fundamental because it gives us a fighting chance to stop the government of absolutely alienating us from the remainder of our rights. Perhaps that is why dictatorships like to seize privately owned firearms.

      Of course, the gr
    • "even when it comes to something like domestic spying on a relatively small part of the population" ...if Big Brother spying on American citizens illegally doesn't qualify as an important violation of civil liberties, what does?
    • Now, I've heard a lot of talk among people of the ACLU being a crazy leftist organization that's terribly out of touch with reality.

      There is no left in America anymore. There is extreme right, right, and middle. The two rights call the middle "left" to get people to recall images of communists and hippies. How many of those do you see these days?

      The ACLU actually takes on a very many cases that the majority of Americans agree with. And they win many (most?) of them. But you won't hear that from the righ

    • It's really very simple. The ACLU did actually take a stand against ECHELON at the time. They setup a website to collect information on ECHELON in August of 1999 - http://www.aclu.org/privacy/spying/15059prs199911 1 6.html [aclu.org]

      But did they file suit against Clinton? Heck no, Clinton was a Democrat president. The ACLU is a partizan organization and will not go after Clinton.

      And now that a very small subset of the eavesdropping that Clinton's Administration instituted with Echelon is being done by a GOP admin
    • Now, I've heard a lot of talk among people of the ACLU being a crazy leftist organization

      Its funny how the world changes. Being a "righty" or conservative usually meant you were all for smaller government and less government envolvement.

      Heres my list on how to be a good Republican. All you have to do is hate everyone on it:

      1) Hillary Clinton (satan lives)
      2) Bill Clinton (mini-me)
      3) NPR
      4) ACLU
      5) PBS
      6) CNN (go watch real news over at Murdock's Fox News)
      7) Any actor or actress with a political view that is n
  • we will see you in court.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:33AM (#14498419)
    I'm no expert on the topic. I was wondering if anyone from Soviet Russia could help us out and let us know whether it was necessary for domestic intelligence agencies to gain a warrant before wiretapping Russian citizens. It just seems like a fun thing to know.

    We're a long way from 1776, people.
    • We're a long way from 1776, people.

      Feels more like 1984 to me.

      BTW, Europe is much the same like the US in this regard.
      Demanding ISPs to tap internet-traffic. Privacy, what is that again?
    • by Cyberax (705495) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:00AM (#14498535)
      Technically it was neccessary. In practice all required warrants were received retroactively.

      PS: Yes, I live in Russia.
    • I'm not sure, though I'm guessing some people are quite missing the boat on this one. The law doesn't give the NSA a blanket right to monitor US citizens, the NSA monitors and does analysis on FOREIGN communications. Where things become grey is when a foreign entity is talking to a US entity, or one from any of the primary allied countries. (Grey in the eyes of the US public that is). The procedures to be followed in such events are spelled out quite clearly. Have been for more years than I've known these a
  • Under the current climate if these people get close to actually changing things something will happen to stop them from actually having any real effect. I'm not saying they will disapear but I wouldn't be surprised is some legislation got rushed through that altered things so that their case became pointless.

  • Honestly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PrinceAshitaka (562972) * on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:37AM (#14498431) Homepage
    How dare these two groups jeopardize national security by selfishly claiming they have rights!

    note: the preceding comment was intended to be facetious
    • They claim that the White House (&NSA) is not following the law. The existing secret (FISA) courts and regulations allow for wiretapping without a warrent application for 72 hours. The wiretapping is done without any courts. The claim is that that wiretapping must follow existing law and regulations, and is not.

      I see no claim to rights here...

      Move along folks, nothing to see
  • There is hope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:39AM (#14498438)
    Winston Smith wasn't allowed to sue the government, not individually nor as an organization.

    That was fiction. Get out while you still can.

  • by eddy (18759) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:40AM (#14498441) Homepage Journal

    "Bush's eavesdropping program was explicitly anticipated in 1978, and made illegal by FISA. There might not have been fax machines, or e-mail, or the Internet, but the NSA did the exact same thing with telegrams" -- Project Shamrock [schneier.com]

    • Eavesdropping goes back just a little bit further than 1978.

      Ever heard of the Royal Mail? (Yes, in the UK).
      It was established by Royal Charter to carry all mail.
      Why?
      So the King could read it all.

      When? In 1516, by Henry VIII when he established the "Master of the Posts".

      Things don't change much, do they? (This sounds better in French).
  • ACLU Blog (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:42AM (#14498450) Journal
    Here's a blog [reformthepatriotact.org] related to this ACLU Vs NSA lawsuit.

    And from that blog, there's a great site [cdt.org] with all the documents which raise concern. There's a lot of info on there if you're really serious about reading up on what resources the ACLU is using to run this case.
  • An interesting point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:54AM (#14498498) Journal

    An interesting point (which the article missed) is that people like Christopher Hitchens, ex-critics who have yet who have yet been defending Bush and the "regime change/WMD quest/freedom spreading/think of the children/over there, not here" war are joining the suit [aclu.org].

    --MarkusQ

  • Its Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kalel666 (587116) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @08:59AM (#14498523)
    How this all comes up now, and how so many people act as if this issue is something new, or even exclusive to the Bush administration. For instance, fill in the blanks on this paragraph:
    The ________ administration claims that it can bypass the warrant clause for "national security" purposes. In July____ Deputy Attorney General ___________ told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes." [51] According to _______, the president (or his attorney general) need only satisfy himself that an American is working in conjunction with a foreign power before a search can take place.


    If you guessed Bush, 2004, and Gonzales, try again: http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2006/01/al-gore- arrogates-to-himself-power-to.html/ [blogspot.com]

    I understand being concerned about possible domestic wiretapping, but lets get real. Many people are suddenly outraged only because it is this administration at this time, when it has been going on and has been an issue for many, many years. Clinton/Gore not only used it, but justified it for completely domestic issues as well.
    • Re:Its Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobinH (124750) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:05AM (#14498557) Homepage
      I understand being concerned about possible domestic wiretapping, but lets get real. Many people are suddenly outraged only because it is this administration at this time, when it has been going on and has been an issue for many, many years. Clinton/Gore not only used it, but justified it for completely domestic issues as well.

      That doesn't make it right for the Bush administration to be doing it, it just means the ACLU is biased, which is pretty well known. Don't blame people for being upset at Bush, blame them for not being upset at anyone else who tried the same thing.

      It's quite possible that with the Patriot Act, a lot of people have been paying more attention to these issues, and it's getting some national attention now, where it wasn't before.

      What's sick is that republicans were probably all over Gore at the time, but are now defending Bush, and the reverse for democrats. That's hypocrisy.
    • Stop lying (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:08AM (#14498578)
      Really, I'm getting tired of this crap.

      What you quoted is not the same as the thing Bush did. While you can of course be of the opinion that it's also problematic, it's legally an entirely different matter.

      So stop acting as if it were the same.

      Really, I can't understand why some people are so desperate about defending this administrations conduct in this matter that they are resorting to simply lying.

      At the time the statement you quoted above was made, physical searches did not, I repeat not violate FISA, because physical searches weren't covered by FISA at the time.
      However, what Bush authorized, clearly is covered by FISA and illegal according to it.

      http://mediamatters.org/items/200601170014 [mediamatters.org]
  • by will_die (586523) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:00AM (#14498534) Homepage
    This lawsuit has some really strange bedfellows.
    First you have greenpeace which is afraid that its fellow members in ELF [adl.org] are bein listened in on.
    Then you have Council on American-Islamic Relations [militantislammonitor.org] who has said that terrorist suspects should have unlimited access to thier supporters back home.

    There are plenty of worthwhile groups that looking into wiretapping and if it was legal, this lawsuit is not going to do anything. The only reason for the ACLU to do it is for the publicity; after all it is coming up to 1 year when they filed a suit saying that the US Government has no right to pick up and deport illegal aliens.
    • Being that I have known quite a few people who have interned for Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the linked alarmist article has very little evidence to support its claims. I encourage people to read every word and then look for comprehensive proof in the cited sources. Furthermore, it's hard to believe that CAIR, after having regular meetings with some of the top-most senators/representatives in the nation would be called "Islamofascist" or a "terrorist" organization by any stretch of the ima
  • by chrish (4714) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:18AM (#14498620) Homepage
    I always knew lawyers were terrorists.
  • by Stalyn (662) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @09:50AM (#14498832) Homepage Journal
    An article [yahoo.com] yesterday claimed that there was little gained from this widespread spying campaign. The overwhelmingly majority of these tips handed down from the NSA lead to innocent Americans.

    The only thing that could possibly justify such an overreaching program is hard evidence that the program actually delivered information that prevented an attack. You would think that if such evidence existed the Bush administration would release it. However the most likely scenario is that no such evidence exists or it is so indirectly tied to the spying program there might be no real way to prove that this information alone actually resulted in a capture or arrest.

    Also I mean real threats, not some whacko who is going to knock down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch. Also a case where you can say, "Yes without the information from the NSA program we would have never have known". So far many suspects have already been identified through man-on-the-ground intelligence.

  • by Deviant (1501) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @10:03AM (#14498911)
    I have long agreed with Jonah Goldberg on many things but his take on this is spot-on...

    "It reminds me of the ongoing case of the vapors contracted by much of the media and by other critics of President Bush's program of spying on "certain Americans." That's how Dan Abrams of MSNBC, for one, refers to a handful of people who are allegedly on al Qaeda's speed dial and have been in contact with terrorists overseas: "certain Americans."

    "Gosh," the average viewer might say, "I'm a certain American!"

    If one paid only casual attention to the news these days, one would get the sense that Bush has a big stack of phone books in the Oval Office, and he and Dick Cheney spend their days thumbing through them to find "certain Americans" to wiretap.

    "Joe Smith?" says Cheney, rubbing his hands together as if over a fine meal. "Man, he's gotta qualify as a certain American. Let's listen to his conversation with his wife."

    At first, I thought this NSA story was a big deal on the merits, and I wrote that Bush should have asked to fix the law rather than work his way around it. I still think that, in a perfect world, the White House would try to get the laws it needs from Congress. Nevertheless, after 9/11, Congress declared that "the president has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism" and authorized "all necessary and appropriate force" against al Qaeda. That strikes me as ample justification for tapping phone calls between al Qaeda associates in Cleveland and Cairo.

    Now I'm beginning to think this is just the latest in anti-Bush hype. The New York Times, which launched this "scandal," remains at journalistic DEFCON 1, releasing a stream of articles, editorials, and Op-Ed articles as if the nation were up in arms over what some hotter heads believe to be an impeachable offense. (A writer for Newsweek.com raises the possibility that the NSA wiretapping is a prelude to right-wing death squads in the U.S.) James Risen, the reporter who uncovered the spying program and has a book on the "secret history" of Bush's antiterrorism efforts, sounds like he's already cleared space on his mantle for his Pulitzer, Profile in Courage, and Nobel prizes."

    The rest of the article - and it is a great one - is availible here...
    http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200 601131109.asp [nationalreview.com]
  • by Guuge (719028) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @12:45PM (#14500431)
    It is well known by now that the modern interpretation of the Constitution deems any warrantless search of US citizens unreasonable, and therefore illegal according to the Fourth Amendment. Concerns about the implications this may have for intelligence gathering have been addressed by FISA. So far, the only defense of the domestic spying program has hinged on the President's ability to interpret the Constitution as he pleases - clearly an indefensible position.

    Given that the President has confessed to the act (if not the crime) of warrantless domestic spying, the only thing left to do is apply the due process set forth in the Constitution and let Justice be served. A lawsuit is a fine thing to have, but it doesn't address the issue that concerns so many US citizens. A message needs to be sent to this administration (and all future administrations) that they are not above the law and specifically that warrantless domestic spying will not be tolerated.

    Unfortunately for us, it is understandably difficult to impeach a president from your own party. This particular congress has been especially lax in its duty to keep the president in check. The only realistic way to achieve Justice would be to start voting in congresspeople with the backbone to stand up for their constituents against a misguided administration.

    We don't need a lawsuit; we need Justice.

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