Wednesday a federal judge took the next step in a battle to shut down domestic intelligence gathering programs operated by the National Security Agency for snatching cell phone data across America.
Judge Richard Leon was about to do just that two years ago, but relented in order to give the government time to organize its appeal. It is expected a renewed preliminary injunction request will be filed shortly, then the government has an opportunity to respond by October 1st. A hearing will then follow on October 8th. The injunction could take affect after that hearing.
Judge Leon’s original reaction to the NSA program two years ago was “almost Orwellian,” referring to George Orwell’s dystopian book “1984.” Court of Appeals judges disagreed with Leon, based on technicality, not on substance.
The case was brought before the court by Larry Klayman founder of Freedom Watch. Mr. Klayman’s reputation has been of a “fringe” anti-establishment activist, known for bringing dozens of cases against the Clintons, and much more. However, he has had substantial impact in a number of instances, and has made steady progress in this one.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have sided with Klayman.
Klayman’s case brief said in part “The data that the NSA collects reveals political affiliation, religious practices and peoples’ most intimate associations.”
“It reveals who calls a suicide prevention line and who calls their elected official; who calls the local tea-party office and who calls Planned Parenthood.”
…the relevant fact for whether an expectation of privacy exists is that the comprehensive telephone records the government collects – not just the records of a few calls over a few days but all of a person’s calls over many years – reveals highly personal information about the person and her life.”
Author’s Note: As an former intelligence officer, I spied on people in other countries. I listened to their private conversations, and they thought they were in complete privacy. Its dark, its invasive.
At that time in the intelligence community we took great care not to spy on U.S. citizens, even if they were overseas. Whole operations were put on hold, if there was even a possibility a U.S. citizen’s conversation could make it into the intelligence process. Where it was incidental and unforeseeable, attorneys had to be involved. U.S. citizens (actually U.S. “persons” including green card holders, legal residents, etc.) were treated as absolutely sacrosanct.
With 9/11 much has changed. NSA has turned its powerful collection abilities inward and claims it must have access. To me, this means the bad guys have won, they have actually changed the American culture to be less free. Perhaps this lawsuit will help to restore some of this freedom.
Some people have claimed they will take less privacy in exchange for more security. My philosophy is we should be willing to fight for what we have.
Some have said (and this really pisses me off!) “If you are not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t care if someone is listening.” If you believe that, then you are naive beyond belief. Information is power, any information I have about you, no matter how innocent or how innocuous, can be turned against. Anyone who dares to greatness will have enemies, and anyone who has enemies needs privacy.
Mr. Klayman’s brief is eloquently put, and is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the invasion of intimate privacy of American citizens by its own spy agency. While I understand the reason for it (9/11 was indeed an existential threat) its time to shut this down.