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The last glimmer of hope for undoing at least one part of the Bush administration's illegal activities, which the Obama administration has likely continued, flickers a little stronger today, thanks to the courts. A federal appeals court has reinstated Amensty et al. v. Blair, a suit filed by the ACLU and numerous other groups to "stop the government from conducting surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), a statute that gives the executive branch virtually unchecked power to collect Americans' international e-mails and telephone calls."

Wired has more.

It’s easy to forget these days, but former President George W. Bush’s illegal warrantless surveillance program was never halted by Congress, nor by the Obama administration; it was merely legalized in a 2008 law called the FISA Amendments Act. That means the surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and internet use — complete with secret rooms in AT&T data centers around the country — is likely still ongoing.

On Monday, a federal appeals court reinstated a key legal challenge to that surveillance: a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others within hours of the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf) being signed into law. The lawsuit attacks the constitutionality of the legislation, which allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans without a probable-cause warrant, so long as one of the parties to the communication resides outside the U.S., and is suspected of a link to terrorism

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the ACLU, and other rights groups involved in the suit, might get their day in court. “This is a really big victory,” said ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Myers. “The ruling is that you don’t have to prove you’ve been spied on to challenge an unlawful spy act.”

The lower court had ruled that the plaintiffs—the ACLU, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and others—didn't have standing to bring the case as they couldn't show that they were subject to the spying. In their appeal, the groups argued that "they often work with overseas dissidents who might be targets of the National Security Agency program. Instead of speaking with those people on the phone or via e-mails, the groups asserted that they have had to make expensive overseas trips in a bid to maintain attorney-client confidentiality. The plaintiffs, some of them journalists, also claim the 2008 legislation chills their speech, and violates their Fourth Amendment privacy rights."

From the ruling [pdf]:

T] plaintiffs have good reason to believe that their communications in particular, will fall within the scope of the broad surveillance that they can assume the government will conduct. The plaintiffs testify that in order to carry out their jobs they must regularly communicate by telephone and e-mail with precisely the sorts of individuals that the government will most likely seek to monitor – i.e., individuals “the U.S. government believes or believed to be associated with terrorist organizations,” “political and human rights activists who oppose governments that are supported economically or militarily by the U.S. government,” and “people located in geographical areas that are a special focus of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism or diplomatic efforts.” The plaintiffs’ assessment that these individuals are likely targets of [FISA Amendments Act] surveillance is reasonable, and the government has not disputed that assertion.

The Obama administration almost certainly appeal, and will probably invoke States Secret Privilege yet again, allowing the government to kill the case on the premise that continuing it would threaten national security secrets.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The last 10 years (19+ / 0-)

    has seen us move much farther into police state territory then I ever thought I'd see us go.

    And I grew up with the FBI watching my house in the 60's due to my fathers involvement in the civil rights movement.

    It makes me incredibly sad.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:25:50 PM PDT

    •  Especially when we worked hard to elect Obama (11+ / 0-)

      To end the most egregious practices of Bush. He's not just continued them, he's doubled down.

      "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for a real Republican every time." Harry Truman

      by MargaretPOA on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:32:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You should have had some inkling... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LEP

        It is this EXACT issue (and then-Sen. Obama's vote for it) for which I had decided I would not give him my vote when he became the Dem. nominee for Pres.  ...then along came Caribou Barbie and the rest, as they say, is history.

        I didn't help "elect Pres. Obama to end the most egregious practices of Bush."  I cast my vote for him because I didn't want to risk a geriatric, cancer survivor's death which could have elevated one of the MOST vacuous nincompoops ever to "grace" the public stage into the most powerful political office in the world.  

        And I sure as heck didn't want to have to watch or listen to that Wasilla Teanut attempt to form coherent sentences around serious public policy issues, you betcha!  And even if my McCain-doomsday fears weren't realized, McCain had rhetorically demonstrated an even LESSER appreciation for democratic/constitutional freedoms than (at the time) Pres. Obama seemed to demonstrate.

        But...I was never "fooled" into believing Pres. Obama was any sort of "antithesis" to the "Bush doctrine."

        No.  I helped elect him to keep Caribou Barbie as far away from the WH as possible.

  •  Might as well be Bush (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lavocat

    Barack Obama:
    Might
    As
    Well
    Be
    Bush

    "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for a real Republican every time." Harry Truman

    by MargaretPOA on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:28:36 PM PDT

    •  In many ways, he's worse (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marjmar, Odysseus, 420 forever

      Bush was just a idiot on so many levels.  Obama, OTOH, is a constitutional scholar who seems hellbent on ignoring the Constitution at every turn.

      Bush gathered enormous power for the Executive over his 8 years.  And now Obama is happily ignoring his own pledges as a candidate and using all of that power as President.  Shocker, I know.

      Obama's studied opportunism looks more and more like malice with each passing day.

      We can't afford another two-term dictator.

      " ... or a baby's arm holding an apple!"

      by Lavocat on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:52:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That is why AT&T is sure to get DOJ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jazzmaniac

    approval on the T-mobile deal. Same as it ever was.

  •  AT&T ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jazzmaniac, vzfk3s, Eric K, Johnny Q

    Yesterday... secret rooms,  today... T-Mobile,  tomorrow... the world! (again)

    "There's nothing in the dark that's not there when the lights are on" ~ Rod Serling

    by jwinIL14 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:33:50 PM PDT

  •  Oh, and maybe it would help if we just (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, artisan, Eric K

    cut to the chase and had NSA run all the communications in this Country. This will probably be last comme

  •  Good thing Obama ran on "hope and change" (7+ / 0-)

    because "despair and status quo" isn't much of a slogan, as we're all, unfortunately, finding out.

    " ... or a baby's arm holding an apple!"

    by Lavocat on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:43:39 PM PDT

    •  as I have often said, if we are disillusioned now (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lavocat

      it means we were "illusioned" before.

      •  Maybe some of us. Certainly not all of us. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        420 forever

        Go back and read some of the FISA threads. They're quite... informational.

        I have to laugh: according to many rather delusional people at DK, the reason we lost seats in the 2010 midterm elections is because this blog contained a lot of criticism of Obama, which low-information voters read, absorbed, and took with them to the polls.

        These same folks were singing the SAME fucking refrain, back when Candidate Obama cast a vote for FISAAA. "No! Shut up! You're giving his opponents ammunition! You'll ruin the election for him!"

        And somehow, in spite of our Magic Campaign-Killing Criticism, he won that election.

        Regards,
        Corporate Dog

        -----
        We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

        by Corporate Dog on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 07:46:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There Was Change in Washington (0+ / 0-)

      K-Street's checks were then made out to Democrats. While Obama was still being contested by Hillary, he swore up & down he would vote against the FISA Bill because it was a stay-out-of-jail card for the Bush Crime Family. It was shortly after Hillary conceded that Senator Obama did a 180 & voted for FISA. I then voted third party. If the Green Party had won, McCain wouldn't have won either. But I know we must be realistic. Just think, in '72 & '84 the Democratic Party's presidential ticket only lost 49-out-of-50 states both times. Why they carried one more state than ANY third-party. I worked as a volunteer on both McGovern's & Mondale's campaigns. I believed in them because they were Democrats. I do not believe in Obama. In my book, he's a member of one wing of the American Corporate Party.

  •   ACLU, Amnesty International, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lavocat, Marjmar, artisan, Odysseus

    Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, etc.

    Can you think of any better groups to be fighting for the people of America?  Well done to them.

    Thanks for the diary on this. An ongoing fight to be sure but as you said...a glimmer of hope.

  •  I wonder whether the Supes would dare (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vzfk3s, Odysseus

    I wonder whether the Supreme Court justices would dare to upend this massive (illegal) power center.  Requiring a warrant for every search, even online, is what the 4th Amendment demands, but right now the NSA et al. are scooping everything.

    I'd put good money on some truly sinister threats coming from some pretty dark places if the Supes did so much as consider undoing this power.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:45:00 PM PDT

    •  Problem is this is not all that new. (0+ / 0-)

      There has always been a way to rule politics with inside information. E.J. Hoover made it an art form.

      The problem is after 45 years things have gotten even more advanced.

      Don't want to be recorded in a meeting, better leave Your cell phone in the car, and no I am not kidding.

      •  Per Orwell, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vzfk3s

        at some point you've passed the point of no return, and there's no going back.

        I get the sick feeling we're at the same point with 4th Amendment rights as we are with climate change.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 06:03:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  But Obama (9+ / 0-)

    is not to blame for fighting against this lawsuit because:

    (a) It's the fault of people who dare to criticize him for fighting it.

    (b) Obama WANTS to do the right thing but he has to be "pragmatic." This is the best that can he can do right now given the current composition of Congress. Shut up and get more Democrats elected and then Obama will do what's right once it becomes "practical."

    (c) Obama is not a dictator and he is therefore powerless to stop the DOJ from fighting this lawsuit.

    (d) The ACLU, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and others are on the wrong side of this issue and Obama/Buscho are in the right.

    Sorry for leaving out the other excuses. I can only regurgitate so much bullshit at one time.

    "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." — Senator Barack Obama

    by Sagebrush Bob on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:48:21 PM PDT

  •  Yep, another chance for Barack Obama (0+ / 0-)

    to roll over for the right wing, continuing the Bush policies, and never get credit from the teabaggers for doing it. But I'm sure the administration will take the time to punch a few hippies to "fire up the base."

    Hey--maybe he'll surprise me.

    Excuse me while I check the trees for flying pigs.

    Primary Barack Obama in 2012 . . . with Barack Obama 2008!

    by Pale Jenova on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 06:11:41 PM PDT

  •  my question to Obama is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Johnny Q

    why does he continue to follow precedent set by W that makes it impossible to deny the accusation that there is no difference between the two (at least on national security/executive power)?  There are many substantive differences between the two, one need look no further than Libya to discover what they are, but why on earth would Obama choose to follow W's lead on anything?  Following his lead allows for the Obama-W comparison.

  •  Just when my friends became... (0+ / 0-)

    accustomed to me answering my phone with "f@&k the CIA."

    Those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. (Paraphrasing B. Franklin)

    by p a roberson on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 07:17:51 PM PDT

  •  This is rich. (0+ / 0-)

    I wonder where all the people went who, once upon a time, suggested, "As a candidate he HAS to vote for FISAAA, or else the Republicans will paint him as weak on terrorism. Don't worry! When he becomes President, he'll overturn it! HE'S GOT THIS."

    Regards,
    Corporate Dog

    -----
    We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

    by Corporate Dog on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 07:29:02 PM PDT

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