Friday, May 08, 2015

This Wasn't Ed Snowden's Trial-- But He Won The Case


Thursday morning the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest court for Connecticut, New York and Vermont, unanimously ruled the bulk collection of megadata by the NSA unconstitutional. It's a blow to the National Security State.
The focus of the court’s decision was the scale of the phone-records collection by the government. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York held that the Patriot Act does not permit the gathering of Americans’ sensitive information on such a large scale.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the statute the government has been relying on to justify the bulk collection of phone records.

...“The statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorized anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for the three-judge panel. “The sheer volume of information sought is staggering,” the court said, and includes “every record that exists, and indeed to records that do not yet exist.”
Although warmongers like McCain were wringing their hands over the ruling-- "People seem to have forgotten 9/11"-- praise for the ruling was widespread and bipartisan and immediate statements came out from Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Justin Amash, Jeff Merkley, Martin Heinrich...

Two House progressives who have been unrelenting in their defense of constitutionally protected privacy rights are Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Ted Lieu (D-CA). "Today’s ruling," explained Pocan to voters in Madison, "confirms what we’ve known from the beginning-- the NSA’s actions have broken the law and invaded the privacy of millions of Americans. It is long past time for Congress to make clear that such programs do not have a place in our democracy.  We can be a nation with the strongest national security while also respecting the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. If we are to preserve our right to privacy in the digital age, we must go further than what is in the current draft of the USA Freedom Act and repeal the entire PATRIOT Act. This is the best way to fully protect Americans from another invasion of privacy by our government."

L.A. freshman Congressman Ted Lieu, an active duty Air Force National Guard officer and a member of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued the following statement as soon as the ruling was announced: 
Today’s ruling by a federal appeals court striking down the NSA’s collection of millions of phone records is a  victory for the constitutional rights of every American. I commend the third branch of government for saying what most Americans already knew: the NSA has been acting illegally for years.

This judicial ruling further underscores why the Patriot Act must expire and not be extended. Continuing to allow mass violations of our Constitutional rights is corrosive to our democracy and undermines trust in our Executive Branch.

The NSA clearly violated the law by bulk collecting phone metadata and further investigation is urgently needed into other NSA programs-- such as recent revelations  about the NSA conducting mass search and seizure of internet traffic. Today’s ruling reaffirms our core democratic values: all federal agencies must uphold the public trust, act according to the laws of the land and follow the Constitution.
Earlier this year, Pocan and Tom Massie (R-KY) introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, H.R. 1466, which offers a complete repeal of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, which the NSA has cited as the legal basis for its phone metadata harvesting surveillance program. Their bill also repeals the FISA Amendments Act, which contains provisions for e-mail data harvesting, while overhauling the NSA’s domestic surveillance program. Additionally, the legislation makes retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and ensures that any FISA collection against a U.S. person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause.

As Bernie Sanders told his constituents in Vermont yesterday, "Clearly we must do everything we can to protect our country from the serious potential of another terrorist attack, but we can and must do so in a way that also protects the constitutional rights of the American people and maintains our free society. We can do that without living in an Orwellian world where the government and private corporations know every telephone call that we make, every website we visit, every place we go." When her polling and results from her focus groups come in and Hillary makes a statement, we'll let you know where she stands too. Meanwhile, you can help Bernie's campaign here.

All the Blue America candidates for Congress are in accord with this ruling as well. Jamie Raskin, who teaches constitutional law at American University and serves as the Majority Whip in the Maryland state Senate, is something of a movement progressive. He's been endorsed by Blue America for the MD-08 seat being abandoned by Chris Van Hollen. After the decision yesterday, he told us: "Anybody who loves personal privacy has got to cheer the ruling by the Second Circuit that the NSA’s mass dragnet collection of our phone records is illegal today, even under the dangerously loose terms of the Patriot Act. In a free society, the people know what their government is doing but are free from unreasonable surveillance by the government; in an authoritarian society, the government always knows what the people are doing but the people have no idea about what the government is up to. Let’s make sure that Congress remembers  the difference when it rewrites the law this summer. When you pick up the phone to call someone, Big Brother should not be listening on the other end or taking notes."

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