Obama Administration Tries to Stop Courts from Ruling on Constitutionality of Warrantless Spying

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Barack Obama and James Clapper (photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

Even after months of stories exposing the breadth and depth of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans’ communications, the Obama administration insists federal courts should stop hearing cases challenging the agency’s warrantless surveillance on grounds that they might expose the existence of this spying.


Last week, federal lawyers asked a judge, Jeffrey S. White, in Northern California to dismiss cases that could lead to a ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance programs authorized during the George W. Bush administration.


The Obama administration contends the cases are just too dangerous to continue if they wind up jeopardizing state secrets.


“Disclosure of this still-classified information regarding the scope and operational details of N.S.A. intelligence activities implicated by plaintiffs’ allegations could be expected to cause extremely grave damage to the national security of the United States,” James Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence, wrote in one of the filings. In June, Clapper was exposed for having lied to Congress about the existence of programs that spied on Americans.


Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the plaintiffs in the cases, told The New York Times that the government’s assertion was “very troubling.”


She added that despite the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the administration was essentially saying, “We can’t say whether the American people have been spied on by their government.”


The lawsuits in question were brought by Carolyn Jewel and Virginia Shubert, who claim the NSA’s spying violated their constitutional rights.


Jewel is suing on behalf of all AT&T customers, and Shubert is suing on behalf of all Americans.


The NSA has refused to confirm or deny that either plaintiff’s communications were targeted.


“The American people know they’re being surveilled,” Cohn told The Washington Post. “The government is trying to reset the clock in order to avoid an open judicial determination about whether that surveillance is legal.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

White House Tries to Prevent Judge From Ruling on Surveillance Efforts (by Charlie Savage and David Sanger, New York Times)

U.S. Government Moves To Block Further Litigation In NSA Surveillance Cases (by Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service)

U.S. Reasserts Need To Keep Domestic Surveillance Secret (by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post)

Jewel v. NSA (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

NSA Phone Data Collection Made No Difference to National Security (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Obama Asks U.S. Supreme Court for Stamp of Approval on Warrantless Cell Phone Searches (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Should National Intelligence Director Clapper be Charged with a Felony for Lying in Sworn Senate Testimony? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


John Watson 10 years ago
Obama or/and his Administration deserve to be eliminated for their hostility to democracy.
walt 10 years ago
What ever happened to "If you've done nothing wrong- you have nothing to worry about"?

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