A federal judge in Washington on Monday will hear arguments that the spies at the National Security Agency should be unplugged so they cannot collect telephone and Internet information on Americans, and while attorneys often consider their own cases significant, in this situation it’s the judge who has established a high priority.
“We work 24/7 around this courthouse, my friend. 24/7. I don’t want to hear anything about vacations, weddings, days off. Forget about it. This is a case at the pinnacle of public national interest. Pinnacle. All hands 24/7. No excuses.”
Those comments came from Judge Richard J. Leon during an earlier hearing on the case brought over Washington’s use of information from the National Security Agency’s PRISM spy program.
Attorney Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a former federal prosecutor, brought the case on behalf of several plaintiffs. He is seeking orders that the NSA spy program that collects communications data on millions of people be “immediately stopped, and all illegally obtained and unauthorized records of plaintiffs and all American citizens purged.”
He has filed a request for preliminary injunctions to halt Washington’s access to the information.
“It is unbelievable that the American people are now living a horror story like this,” he said. “Even George Orwell could not have envisioned this outrage, with hundreds of millions of Americans being spied on, and coerced into submission by a tyrannical government.
“If this had been 1776, our Founding Fathers, being considered subversives by King George III, would have never made it to Philadelphia to debate and sign the Declaration of Independence. Their communications would have been intercepted, and they would have been arrested and executed on the spot.”
Klayman, who also is planning a Nov. 19 “Reclaim America Now” demonstration in Washington, said that “237 years later, the American people are again under the rule of a despot, Barack Hussein Obama, who undoubtedly will attempt to use the NSA to coerce his adversaries, at a minimum, into silence, and thus head off a people’s revolt.”
The hearing is over Klayman’s request for a preliminary injunction, which, if issued, theoretically could shut down those NSA operations until a trial is held.
Klayman confirms that if the court rules in his clients’ favor, “the NSA and the government as a whole will be preliminarily enjoined from continuing to use its unlawful, overly broad application of its PRISM program to continue indiscriminately spying on American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or terrorism.”
Klayman has explained that, “The people’s grievances are not being heard by either major political party and the NSA’s PRISM surveillance, which is endorsed by many in Congress on both sides of the aisle, is intended to squelch dissent and intimidate We the People into not standing up to our corrupt government leaders.”
His case addresses the revelations in recent weeks of the extent of NSA spying on Americans, foreign heads of state and others.
Klayman noted the world has “learned more shocking details about the NSA’s surveillance activities, with even revelations that agency personnel have used this surveillance to spy on their paramours.”
“If low-level personnel are using PRISM in this way, one can only imagine what high-level political appointees and supervisors are doing and are capable of doing on behalf of the Obama administration,” he said.
Klayman’s case challenges the NSA’s programs to “systematically gather, intercept and analyze vast quantities of telephonic and online ‘metadata’ of U.S. citizens.”
He charges that for a decade, the NSA “has engaged in illicit surveillance tactics, utilizing custom-built supercomputers, technical trickery, unlawful court orders, behind-the scenes persuasions, and collaborations with major technology companies, in addition to implementing overreaching unlawful surveillance programs to obtain content and metadata on millions of ordinary Americans without individual warrants.”
Among the details captured are pieces of information about plaintiffs Klayman, Charles Strange and Mary Ann Strange.
The case alleges violations of the Fifth Amendment.
Reuters reported recently that the Senate Intelligence Committee has endorsed a plan to tighten controls on the government’s sweeping electronic eavesdropping programs but allow them to continue.
The panel, following a classified hearing, voted 11-4 for a measure that puts new limits on what intelligence bureaus can do with that metadata and says such information cannot be held for longer that five years.
Just a few days earlier, President Obama, reacting to the public outcry over the government’s spying, ordered the NSA to stop listening in on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
According to a report in USNews, several other legal challenges to NSA spying also are pending, including a demand by the American Civil Liberties Union for the NSA to stop its phone-record collection.
That case is being heard in New York.
While surveillance programs are reviewed by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and remain secret virtually throughout their existence, a multitude of concerns have been raised after revelations by Edward Snowdon, who leaked many secret documents and fled to Russia.
Among the critics of NSA actions has been Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who was author of the Patriot Act. He explains that law does not give the NSA authority to collect he phone records of all Americans as has been happening.
He’s sponsoring legislation to specifically ban that.
Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government told US News that Leon likely has the judicial authority to review secret FISC cases.
“I don’t think the court should have any problem taking jurisdiction over this,” Dranias told USNews. “I would think you could make a pretty plausible argument that a genuine full-fledged Article III court would have primary jurisdiction over constitutional issues, particularly when you have real litigation going on, as opposed to a more administrative judicial role.”
The Electronic Privacy Information Center also is pursuing action over the collection of phone records, and has gone directly to the U.S. Supreme Court with its request for intervention.