23 January 2010

Warrantless wiretapping suit dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed a suit filed on behalf of AT&T customers challenging the surveillance of their phone calls and emails by the National Security Agency peformed without a court order.
In the ruling, issued late Thursday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker held that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a "particularized injury" but instead a "generalized grievance" because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service.

"The alarming upshot of the court's decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional..."
More at the link.  I have no understanding of the legal argument involved, which was explained in a Reddit discussion thread -
The plaintiffs didn't have standing. One of the elements of standing is that you cannot bring a claim for a general grievance. An injury that is felt by everyone or almost everyone can theoretically be dealt with by the elected branches of government, and our constitution says that they are the ones who should deal with those types of problems. Because the alleged injury in this case was not particular to the plaintiffs, but instead was suffered by millions and millions of Americans, they did not have standing and the case had to be dismissed. It is disappointing but not surprising, as that is how standing always works...
- but I don't like the decision and its implications.


  1. Yes common sense says this is wrong and a court decision should reflect that. Privacy and civil liberties should be made more of an issue to the masses. People will only think it only matters when it is too late.

  2. not really - Congress should (could) pass a law making it illegal. The more I see how the law works, the more respect I have for thoughtful judges who don't want to take a sledge hammer to 1500 years of common law. It shows a respect for our ancestors who were just as smart as we are and who erected the legal edifice we all live in. If you don't like taxis honking outside your apartment at 2 am, pass a law making it illegal. Don't ask a judge to twist an existing precedent.

  3. i have not read the ruling but would find some modicum of comfort knowing there might contain language extolling common sense and decencey and decrying the act of spying on the citizens of our lands. It didn't work out too well for Eastern Germany the scarring is still fresh for a number of people even after all these years. I say make no doubt, we are getting to a very similar body of totalrian visciousness. Once the structure is in place all it takes is the wrong intent to access it as we all know...well most of us it seems.
    funny how the new speak is the double speak of old. Freedom is now not having any, "Safe" is the new Freedom and a generation is now growing up thinking this is normal. We still live in the greatest country I believe but I seriously grieve for its recent series of amputations to it's form in the last few years.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...