The attorney whose cases produced a ruling from a federal judge that the National Security Agency spy-on-Americans program likely is unconstitutional charges that President Obama’s proposed fixes are not genuine.
Attorney Larry Klayman, founder of FreedomWatch, is fighting the NSA’s telephone call-tracking program in federal court in Washington, where a judge ruled the government’s actions are “almost Orwellian” and likely unconstitutional.
Today, Obama held a news conference to announce he wants to implement changes in the program to enable the NSA to continue reviewing telephone-call metadata “when we need” but to no longer hold the information.
Klayman said his lawsuits and the information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden forced the president to propose changes.
“Without what Snowden has done, without the court decision, he wouldn’t have been standing at the podium,” Klayman said.
Klayman asserted Obama’s proposals “don’t matter.”
“He doesn’t have the authority. It has to come from Congress,” he said
The attorney said Obama was “spewing smoke … to make himself look good.”
Klayman also said Obama has not engendered trust.
“If you believe he was serious about investigating the IRS, investigating Benghazi, telling the truth about Obamacare … then you can believe what he said today. He doesn’t mean it.”
Obama said he wants to have intelligence agencies get permission from a secret court before using the telephone data.
He also said he wants to cut back on eavesdropping on the leaders of foreign allies, which has ignited a diplomatic firestorm.
But Obama stood behind the NSA’s activities, calling them necessary for national security. He failed, however, to address several recommendations from a review panel that looked at surveillance issues. The panel recommended that the NSA “not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable” commercial software and that it discontinue exploiting flaws in software.
Obama also suggested creating a panel of advocates on privacy and technology to appear before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance.
At the same time, the Obama administration is arguing that Klayman’s cases should be delayed or dismissed by the court.
“Further litigation of this issue could risk or require disclosure of classified national security information,” the administration argued, “such as whether plaintiffs were the targets of or subject to NSA intelligence-gathering activities, confirmation or denial of the identities of the telecommunications service providers from which NSA has obtained information about individuals’ communications, and other classified details of the challenged programs.”
In a reply brief, Klayman called the government’s argument an “outrageous assertion” that “in effect amounts to a threat against plaintiffs – suggesting that they are now under ‘criminal’ investigation in obvious retaliation for plaintiffs having succeeded with their motion for preliminary injunction.”
“These threats are not only manufactured to try to shut down this case, but they also amount to an obstruction of justice, as they are intended to scare and coerce plaintiffs into backing away from fully litigating these suits,” Klayman told the court.
Klayman urges the district court needs to move forward on the case soon, because the court itself had warned earlier: “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. You got a team of lawyers; Mr. Klayman is alone apparently. You have litigated cases in this courthouse when it is matters of this consequence and enormity. You know how this court operates.”
The government recently, in its motion filed to U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who issued the injunction against the spy program, asked that he halt any further proceedings while an appeals court examines the ruling.
Klayman said when the government motion was filed, the move wasn’t a surprise in light of the government’s spying on Americans and its reluctance to provide information about the programs.
“This is a further attempt to keep information about the biggest violation of the Constitution in American history from the American people. It’s an outrage,” he said.
He said the Obama administration has the perspective of “heads I win, tails you lose,” and its attitude is: “We control all the information and the American people be damned. They don’t have rights.”
Klayman said he already had requested a status conference on the case, asking the court how to proceed with discovery in preparation for trial.
The government move reveals its true attitude, he said.
“It’s important for the American people to see how the government treats them and views them. We’re nothing more than rabble,” he said.
Politico reported on the government’s motion, which argued: “Further litigation of plaintiffs’ challenges to the conduct of these programs could well risk or require disclosure of highly sensitive information about the intelligence sources and methods involved – information that the government determined was not appropriate for declassification when it publicly disclosed certain facts about these programs.”
The information actually was disclosed when Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked details of the program.
The DOJ argued that if the litigation proceeds, “it will ultimately become necessary to conclusively determine, as a factual matter, whether plaintiffs have established their standing to challenge NSA’s alleged interception of the content of their communications, and collection of metadata about those communications.”
Klayman said the aim of the lawsuits is to find out the details of the programs and whether the government, in its alleged pursuit of information about terror activities, has been violating the constitutional assurances of Americans’ privacy.
The government is alarmed at that aim.
“Plaintiffs have indicated in their pleadings (and during argument on their motions for preliminary injunctions) that they intend to pursue discovery to obtain ‘full disclosure and a complete accounting’ of what the government defendants (and other defendants in these cases ‘have done [or been] allowed to do’ in connection with the challenged NSA intelligence programs; ‘identification of any and all ‘targets’ subject to defendants’ ‘surveillance’ and production of ‘all other relevant reports, risk assessments, memoranda, and other documents,’” the government said.
In his argument against delay, Klayman noted that the NSA already delayed filing a notice of appeal for three weeks after the court emphasized the need for quick work on the case.
And he noted the NSA, after the judge’s ruling, went back to the “secret star chamber proceedings” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and obtained permission to continue its spy programs.
“It is clear that the NSA defendant, despite this court’s ruling of gross unconstitutionality, is continuing to violate, in an egregious fashion, the Fourth Amendment rights of over 300 million Americans,” Klayman said.
“It is telling that while trying to throw a monkey wrench into and effectively shut down plaintiffs’ cases, the NSA defendant has the audacity to argue that the court should allow these cases to go forward only as the NSA defendant sees fit …”
WND has reported Klayman also charged he was put under surveillance – and more – by the agency when he filed the case.
Klayman, a WND commentary contributor and founder of Judicial Watch and, more recently, FreedomWatch, told WND that once his allegations that the federal government was violating the Constitution with its “watch-every-call” strategy hit the courts, he noticed problems with his email.
“People began receiving from me emails that I had never sent,” Klayman told WND at the time, suggesting harassment in response to his work. “The government just wanted me to know they were watching me.”
Klayman filed the action on behalf of several plaintiffs, seeking first a preliminary injunction to prevent the federal government from damaging Americans further. Leon wrote, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval.”
Klayman brought the case on behalf of Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange, a cryptologist technician for the NSA and a support personnel member of Navy SEAL Team 6.
Michael Strange was killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011.
Charles Strange, as a subscriber of Verizon Wireless, brought the case against the NSA, Department of Justice and several U.S. officials, including President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The complaint alleges the government, with the participation of private telephone companies, has been conducting “a secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications.”