by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 10th 2014 3:03am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 7th 2014 5:03am
from the let's-get-this-going... dept
Current U.S. FAA regulations prevent ... using UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, like drones] for commercial purposes at the moment.Well, that's no longer the case apparently. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty has unleashed the tacocopters of the world by issuing a ruling that the FAA has no mandate to regulate commercial drones. The case involved the first time that the FAA had actually tried to fine someone, a guy named Raphael Pirker, $10,000 for trying to film a commercial with a drone at the University of Virginia.
The issue, basically, is that the FAA has historically exempted model airplanes from its rules, and the NTSB finds it impossible to square that with its attempt to now claim that drones are under its purview. As Geraghty notes, accepting that leads to absurd arguments about the FAA's mandate over all flying objects:
Complainant has, historically, in their policy notices, modified the term "aircraft" by prefixing the word "model", to distinguish the device/contrivance being considered. By affixing the word "model" to "aircraft" the reasonable inference is that Complainant FAA intended to distinguish and exclude model aircraft from either or both of the aforesaid definitions of "aircraft".The judge notes that while the FAA had some internal memorandum about these issues, it did not put forth a full rule, and thus it is not an actual policy. As a result, the ruling finds that the current definition of aircraft is not applicable here and thus the FAA has no real mandate over this kind of drone.
To accept Complainant's interpretive argument would lead to a conclusion that those definitions include as an aircraft all types of devices/contrivances intended for, or used for, flight in the air. The extension of that conclusion would then result in the risible argument that a flight in the air of, e.g., a paper aircraft, or a toy balsa wood glider, could subject the "operator" to the regulatory provisions of FAA Part 91, Section 91.13(a)....
..... The reasonable inference is not that FAA has overlooked the requirements, but, rather that FAA has distinguished model aircraft as a class excluded from the regulatory and statutory definitions.
This does not preclude the FAA from trying to go through a full rule-making process to try to gain a mandate over commercial drone use, but that will involve a big political fight. It's way easier to block something like that from becoming official than overturning it if it was already deemed the law.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 25th 2013 9:56am
from the whoa dept
It turns out that might not have been the only misrepresentation from Verrilli -- and this next one may be even bigger, involving misleading the Supreme Court on a loophole that allowed the NSA to spy on tens of thousands of Americans.
As was noted earlier this year, upon realizing what happened, Verrilli was apparently furious, and the DOJ has now changed its policy to match with what Verrilli said -- they now will notify defendants, but it's clear that they never did so before.
But Senators Mark Udall, Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich have sent Verrilli a letter urging him to "set the record straight" with the Supreme Court... but not just on that issue of disclosing. Rather they highlight somewhere else they think he did not paint the correct picture:
In Clapper v. Amnesty, the majority opinion characterizes as “highly speculative” the plaintiffs’ fear that “the Government will decide to target the communications of non-U.S. persons with whom they communicate,” and states that the “respondents’ theory necessarily rests on their assertion that the Government will target other individuals – namely their foreign contacts.” These and other statements in the opinion indicate the Court’s view that the only way the plaintiffs’ communications could be intercepted under the FAA is if those communications are to or from a foreign intelligence target.Just to hammer this point home, they're saying that despite everyone, including the Supreme Court, clearly reading the law to say that Section 702 of the FAA is supposed to be limited to surveillance on foreign targets, it actually also allows surveillance on communications about foreign targets -- and that likely includes tons of communications of Americans. And these communications were believed not to be available under this program, including by the Supreme Court.
Yet with the disclosure and declassification in recent months of relevant documents regarding Section 702, the role of ‘about’ collection under the FAA is now public, although not widely understood. In addition to authorizing the collection of communications to and from foreign, overseas targets, the FISA Amendments Act also has been secretly interpreted to authorize the collection of communications that are merely about a targeted overseas foreigner.
This form of collection allows the government – through the “upstream” collection under Section 702 – to collect any communication whose content includes an identifier, such as an email address, associated with an overseas foreigner who may be a foreign intelligence target. But according to the FISA Court’s October 2011 opinion, the ‘about’ collection likely results in the acquisition of “tens of thousands” of wholly domestic communications every year. In other words, tens of thousands of emails between law-abiding Americans are likely being collected – even though these Americans are not actually communicating directly with a foreign intelligence or terrorism target. As FAA collection was intended to target persons “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States,” and targeting procedures were intended to “prevent the intentional acquisition of any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States,” the FISA Court in its October 2011 opinion called this expanded FAA collection a circumvention of the “spirit” of the law and a “cause of concern for the Court.”
The Senators ask Verrilli if he clearly informed the Supreme Court of this at any point, and if not, suggest that he correct the record.
We believe that a formal notification to the Supreme Court of the government’s misrepresentations in the case — both relating to its notice policy and relating to its practice of ‘about’ collection under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — would be an important step in correcting the public record and would be in the interests of the public as well as of the Administration and the Supreme Court.This seems rather important -- and a point that not many reporters have covered (which also might explain why the Senators are raising it, and noting that the revelation "is not widely understood.") This is a way of alerting people to the simple fact that the NSA has interpreted Section 702 to mean it can collect any communication deemed to be "about" a target, even if the communication is not from or to that target.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 13th 2013 7:31am
from the isn't-that-convenient dept
At least they didn't redact the page number
The government has submitted a response and supporting declaration for ex parte, in camera review. It has given the providers only a heavily redacted version of its submissions, and it has rejected all requests for greater access.The whole thing is really quite incredible. Our government is so focused on the secrecy of its secret laws and secret demands that it won't even tell the companies fighting the secrecy the secret reasons it's telling the court it has to keep stuff secret? How is that possibly consistent with basic due process under the law?
Unless the government reconsiders its refusal to accommodate the providers' legitimate need to understand the basis for the government's response, the providers respectfully request that this Court strike the redacted portions of the government's brief and supporting declaration. The redacted version of the government's submissions does not comply with Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Rule 7(j) because it does not "clearly articulate the government's legal arguments," as the rule requires. If the government's interpretation of the rule were correct, the rule would violate both the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause. To avoid that result, the Court should construe the rule to require fuller disclosure to the providers.
Allowing the government to file an ex parte brief in this case will cripple the providers' ability to reply to the government's arguments and is likely to result in a disposition of the providers' First Amendment claims based on information that the providers will never see. The providers do not dispute that in some cases it may be appropriate for this Court to consider ex parte filings. In this case, however, such a course is neither justified nor constitutional. The providers already know the core information that the government seeks to protect in this litigation--the number of FISC orders or FAA directives to which they have been subject, if any. At issue here is only the secondary question whether the providers may be told the reason why the government seeks to keep that information a secret. The government has not argued that sharing those reasons with the providers or their counsel would endanger national security. Accordingly, unless the government allows the providers' counsel to access its response, the Court should strike the redacted portions of the response.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Oct 22nd 2013 7:39am
from the needs-new-talking-points dept
Dianne Feinstein is reaching out to the American public (at least those that read USA Today) in hopes of gathering support for the NSA's metadata collection. (Maybe she feels she guilty after inadvertently damaging its chances at staying legal...) If you've heard anything from Feinstein over the past few months, you've heard these arguments. In fact, if you've heard anything from any of the NSA's defenders, including Gen. Alexander himself, you've heard these arguments.
Her editorial basically checks every box on the list of Section 215isms.
The NSA call-records program is legal…[X] OVERSIGHT
… and subject to extensive congressional and judicial oversight.These words are meant to be comforting, showing that the NSA isn't doing anything illegal, especially since any oversight would certainly prohibit that, right? Except that the legality of the program depends on secret interpretations and a very loose reading of the Third Party Doctrine. As for the oversight? The FISA court has been (rightfully) referred to as a "rubber stamp," and the oversight is hampered by the underhanded tactics deployed by intelligence committee heads.
So, while the sentence may be technically true, the words being used don't mean what most Americans would assume them to mean.
[X] IT WORKS
Above all, the program has been effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots against the U.S. and our allies.Once again, there's very little proof that the Section 215 program has had any effect. At one point, defenders were claiming over 50 plots had been prevented by this program. At the latest count, it's been pared down to two. And those two are still "maybes."
The most recent narrative push is that this program would have prevented the 9/11 attacks, because of a San Diego phone number being contacted by one of the hijackers. But this claim should be taken with a server full of salt because even with the program, the NSA is having trouble finding any needles scattered amongst all the hay. It does well connecting the dots after attacks have occurred, but Americans shouldn't have to sacrifice liberty for mop-up security.
[X] NOT SURVEILLANCE
The call-records program is not surveillance. It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations.Feinstein cites the Supreme Court's decision that business records aren't protected by the Fourth Amendment. What she glosses over is the fact that these "unprotected" records can paint a very vivid picture of telco customers, many of whom would be very surprised at how little is left up to the imagination by metadata.
[X] CONNECT THE DOTS
This program helps "connect the dots" — the main failure of our intelligence before 9/11.And continues to be a failure more than a decade later! Feinstein quotes two intelligence leaders as claiming an untargeted metadata haul would have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Considering the fact that the NSA can only claim two "maybes" in its decade-plus of having access to these records, those claims seem to be completely faith-based.
Feinstein specifically mentions hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who supposedly would have been discovered here in the US pre-9/11 had the agencies been able to collect vast amounts of metadata. Unfortunately, the truth is that the CIA had plenty of info on al-Mihdhar's movements in other countries as it had been tracking his movements for two years. But when it lost him in 2000, it did nothing proactive, like place him on watch list in case he returned to the US. Evidence exists that various call tracing programs built at the behest of the NSA and DEA were in place well before 2001, and none of those helped track down a person well known to the CIA.
[X] NEEDLES IN HAYSTACKS
The overwhelming majority of records are never reviewed before being destroyed, but it is necessary for the NSA to obtain "the haystack" of records in order to find the terrorist "needle."One paragraph after "connecting the dots" (which the NSA can't seem to do proactively), Feinstein deploys the other data-harvesting cliche. The NSA isn't having much luck with its needle-finding technology either and recently, its haystacks have been bursting into flames. So, this is a non-starter.
[X] TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE, EVEN IF IT TAKES FOREVER
To be effective, the NSA must be able to conduct these queries quickly, without regard to which phone carrier a terrorist or conspirator uses. And the records must be available for a few years — longer than phone companies need them for billing purposes.Let me get this straight: the NSA needs records right away but also wants to keep them indefinitely. The latter part plays to the agency's strength -- the deployment of hindsight-guided, dot-connection technology. Its catlike reflexes are generally underwhelming when it comes to preventative efforts, however.
[X] METADATA STOPS TERRORISM
Since its inception, this program has played a role in stopping roughly a dozen terror plots and identifying terrorism supporters in the U.S.This number is also false, but it's one that's being used to salvage the upper end claim of "54." The "roughly a dozen" refers to thirteen of those 54 that have a "terrorism nexus" in the US. Feinstein has built a list of nearly 100 terrorism-related arrests, "some" of which have been "thwarted" by the Section 215 program. A perusal of the list shows that many of these were thwarted through old-fashioned sting operations, with a handful of these being plots that FBI agents orchestrated in their entirety. Section 215 is completely unnecessary if you're mainly interested in "foiling" your own plots.
So, with great vagueness, Feinstein makes these assertions and wholly expects USA Today readers to buy the narrative. The US needs a program that allows for untargeted data collection of American phone records just because sometime it might possibly prevent something. It hasn't yet -- not conclusively -- but there's always a chance it will, given the indefinite, unchallenged future Sen. Feinstein is attempting to ensure.
To its credit, USA Today has run its own editorial in response to Feinstein's article. The response demands that the program prove itself, something it has failed to do over the years. Its lack of proven worth almost saw it closed down previously and the renewed defense of the program in the wake of the Snowden leaks has been less than inspiring. USA Today also calls out Feinstein's wishful "could have prevented 9/11" defense, pointing out that it wasn't a lack of data that was the problem, but rather the failure of intelligence agencies to share the data they did have. The editorial closes out with this paragraph, which nods to Ben Franklin's famous quote.
Choosing between privacy rights and security from terrorism is difficult. But before Americans are forced to make that choice, the government ought to demonstrate that this intrusive program has extraordinary value. So far, the administration hasn't even come close.The NSA's defenders are making minimal concessions to transparency, but it's become obvious that the agency does its "best" work in complete darkness. Having its methods dragged out into the sunlight demonstrates just how invasive they are -- and how little they accomplish.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 18th 2013 9:55am
Dianne Feinstein's Bragging About NSA Surveillance Program May Finally Result In It Being Declared Unconstitutional
from the ooops dept
First up: the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was passed in 2008, after Congress claimed that the intelligence community was hamstrung in important areas of surveillance. Much of the debate over the law was focused on the fact that it gave telcos retroactive immunity for anything illegal they might have done regarding President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, which was only revealed by the NY Times a few years earlier. But, even more important than that was that the FAA more or less authorized continued warrantless wiretapping by the intelligence community. In 2011, the FAA was up for renewal. Some in the Senate sought to use the distraction (that year) over the "debt ceiling" to sneak through an early renewal with no debate, and Senator Ron Wyden put a hold on it, demanding more answers about how many Americans were being spied on. He eventually lifted the hold in exchange for a one-year extension and a promised debate over the FAA.
Fast forward to the end of last year, with the FAA set to expire yet again, and Senate Intelligence Committee boss Dianne Feinstein, who had originally made that "deal" with Wyden, tried very hard to avoid having any debate. Eventually, at the very end of December, she allowed a brief debate, in which she showed up up to insist that the FAA had to be renewed or we'd all be at risk. As we noted at the time, her reasoning was somewhat laughable, where she held up a pretend piece of paper with a supposed "classified" reason for why the FAA was so important. Remember that speech, because it's going to become quite important a little later on in this story.
Parallel to all of this, there was a legal fight making its way through the courts, brought by the ACLU to challenge the Constitutionality of the FAA. The big question was whether or not the courts could be convinced that the ACLU had "standing" to sue, since it couldn't prove that it had been spied on directly. Eventually, in a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said that the ACLU had no standing. Of course, the key thing that had concerned the Justices the most was the simple question: if the program is secret, then could anyone ever challenge the Constitutionality of the program?
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who argued the case on behalf of the government, told the Supreme Court that of course people could have standing to challenge the law, and that the government would be required to inform defendants in cases where such information was used that it was collected under the FAA. This point is what pushed the Supreme Court over the edge to rule against the ACLU. As they noted in the majority decision:
...if the Government intends to use or disclose information obtained or derived from a §1881a acquisition in judicial or administrative proceedings, it must provide advance notice of its intent, and the affected person may challenge the lawfulness of the acquisition.... Thus, if the Government were to prosecute one of respondent-attorney’s foreign clients using §1881a-authorized surveillance, the Government would be required to make a disclosure.... In such a situation, unlike in the present case, it would at least be clear that the Government had acquired the foreign client’s communications using §1881a-authorized surveillance.Okay, now the law has been in place since 2008. If what Verrilli said was true, then, um, shouldn't there have been some cases between now and then where the FAA-enabled wiretapping was used? And if that's true, then it should have been disclosed in the various cases. Except, there is no case on record where it had been disclosed.
Right, so now we jump back to Feinstein's grandstanding about why we need to keep the FAA. In her speech on the floor, she announced that the FAA was necessary in a long list of cases:
"I've asked the staff to compile arrests that have been made in the last four years in America on terrorist plots that have been stopped. And there are 100 arrests that have been made since 2009 and 2012. There have been 16 individuals arrest just this year alone. Let me quickly just review what these plots were. And some of them come right from this program. The counterterrorism come and the information came right from this program. And again, if Members want to see that they can go and look in a classified manner.The lawyers for the defendants in the two named cases suddenly recognized an issue. They were named in this list, but at no point had they been told that evidence was gathered under this program. So they asked. And... the government refused to tell them the details. The NY Times took notice of this, pointing out that either Feinstein lied in her Senate statement or Verrilli lied to the Supreme Court:
[proceeds to list out eight "examples" of terrorism arrests -- two with names, six are just general descriptions of plots]
... and it goes on and on and on. So this has worked. And you know, as the years go on, the intelligence becomes the way to prevent these attacks. Now that the FBI has geared up a national security unit, they've employed 10,000 people and information gained through programs like this, through other sources as well, is able to be used to prevent plots from happening. So in four years 100 arrests to prevent something from happening in the United States, some of which comes from this program. So I think it's a vital program.
In a prosecution in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., against two brothers accused of plotting to bomb targets in New York, the government has said it plans to use information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA, which authorized individual warrants. But prosecutors have refused to say whether the government obtained those individual warrants based on information derived from the 2008 law, which allows programmatic surveillance.To his credit, it appears that once this all became clear, Verrilli had a crisis of conscience, suggesting that he did not knowingly lie to the Supreme Court, but honestly believed that the DOJ would reveal its use of these programs in cases. From that new NY Times piece by Charlie Savage, it's reported that Verrilli was pretty angry about being misled and demanded some answers:
Prosecutors in Chicago have taken the same approach in a prosecution of teenager accused of plotting to blow up a bar.
As a result, Mr. Verrilli sought an explanation from national security lawyers about why they had not flagged the issue when vetting his Supreme Court briefs and helping him practice for the arguments, according to officials.Either way, Verrilli followed through on this, and apparently kicked off a major "internal debate" over whether or not there was "any persuasive legal basis for failing to clearly notify defendants that they faced evidence linked to the 2008 warrantless surveillance law, thereby preventing them from knowing that they had an opportunity to argue that it derived from an unconstitutional search." According to the article, Verrilli "argued that withholding disclosure from defendants could not be justified legally." Eventually, even the NSA and FBI's lawyers and James Clapper's office agreed. The decision was made to start revealing this information going forward.
The national security lawyers explained that it was a misunderstanding, the officials said. Because the rules on wiretapping warrants in foreign intelligence cases are different from the rules in ordinary criminal investigations, they said, the division has long used a narrow understanding of what “derived from” means in terms of when it must disclose specifics to defendants.
However, they also agreed to reveal to at least one defendant that the FAA was used to collect evidence against them, and that this had not been revealed. Of course, this means they get to cherry pick the "right" case.
The ACLU, however, is not waiting around. Almost immediately, it filed a case about this, arguing that the government had illegally hidden this information in response to a FOIA request. It seems like that may be the most obvious procedural way of re-raising this question, as I have no idea if there's some way for the ACLU to directly petition the Supreme Court to reopen the case, noting that the key piece of information the Justices relied on to make their ruling was false (though, apparently, from a Solicitor General who had been misled by prosecutors).
Now, to wrap this all up, we bring it back around to Feinstein's speech in the Senate. Remember, the whole point of her speech was to directly argue for the reapproval of the FAA. And while she equivocated a few times in describing what programs were responsible for the arrests, she clearly made references to "this program" working. However, when the lawyers for one of the defendants named by Feinstein asked the Senate Intelligence Committee for some clarification, Morgan Frankel, a Senate Intelligence Committee lawyer, responded by arguing that Feinstein wasn't actually referring to the FAA program. Seriously.
Notwithstanding that she was speaking in support of reauthorization of Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Senator Feinstein did not state, and she did not mean to state, that FAA surveillance was used in any or all of the nine cases she enumerated, including Mr. Daoud's case, in which terrorist plots had been stopped. Rather, the nine cases the Chairman sumamrized were drawn from a list of 100 arrests arising out of foiled terrorism plots in the United States between 2009 and 2012 compiled by the staff from FBI press releases and other public sources.Did you get that? So, what they're now saying is that Senator Feinstein went to the floor of the Senate to argue strongly in favor of renewing the FAA, and she named a bunch of cases, clearly stating that this program was necessary because of those cases -- but she didn't mean to imply that it was ever actually used in any of those cases. And, in the meantime, we now find out that even in cases where it has been used, no one's been told about it, despite the law requiring defendants to be told -- and the Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court they would be told.
[....] To summarize, nothing in Senator Feinstein's remarks was intended to convey any view that FAA authorities were used or were not used in Mr. Daoud's case or in any of the other cases specifically named. Rather, her purpose in reviewing several recent terrorism arrests was to refute the "view by some that this country no longer needs to fear attack." Thus, because Senator Feinstein was neither relying on, nor attempting to convey, any information about the use or non-use of FAA authorities in any of the nine cases, there are no "assessments, reports, and other information" in the Committee's possession to which Senator Feinstein referred in her comments, pertaining to FAA surveillance with respect to Mr. Daoud's case.
So, it appears that both Verrilli and the Supreme Court got duped by the intelligence community, while Feinstein clearly misled the Senate and the American public by pretending that the FAA had been used to stop terrorism, but when called on it, now pretends she meant no such thing. Thankfully, however, her attempt at misleading the public by bragging about these arrests may have now (finally) kicked off the legal rationale for a case to prove that the FAA is, in fact, unconstitutional.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 9th 2013 10:36am
NSA's Rules Allowing Warrantless Searches On Americans Came THE SAME DAY It Was Told Searches Violated 4th Amendment
from the legal-loopholes dept
If you don't recall, about a year ago, under pressure from Senator Wyden, the US government admitted (late on a Friday evening) that, indeed, the FISA court had "on one occasion" ruled that certain activities concerning Section 702 "minimization" (i.e., trying to avoid searches on US persons) were "unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment." And yet, that very same day, the NSA announced that the rules had changed and it could do searches on US persons, following a certain (undisclosed) "oversight process." Wheeler notes that the NSA seems to have interpreted the FISA court smacking it down for spying on Americans as a form of permission to spy on Americans:
Wheeler goes further, providing details from the discussion in the Senate Intelligence Committee during the debate over reauthorizing the FISA Amendments Act (which is where 702 comes from), in which it was strongly hinted that the FISA court had "concerns" about this very type of backdoor searching, and despite acknowledging this, no one bothered to close that backdoor. In fact, it now appears that the NSA and the Director of National Intelligence may have used all of this as a cover to argue that they are authorized to do these kinds of searches.
The FISC Court didn't just "approve" minimization procedures on October 3, 2011. In fact, that was the day that it declared that part of the program violated the Fourth Amendment.
So where the glossary says minimization procedures approved on that date "now allow" for querying US person data, it almost certainly means that on October 3, 2011, the FISC court ruled the querying the government had already been doing violated the Fourth Amendment, and sent it away to generate "an effective oversight process," even while approving the idea in general.
And note that FISC didn't, apparently, require that ODNI/DOJ come back to the FISC to approve that new "effective oversight process."
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 9th 2013 9:53am
Loophole Shows That, Yes, NSA Has 'Authority' To Spy On Americans -- Directly In Contrast With Public Statements
from the and,-another-one dept
This also seems reminiscent of our point on Wednesday, in which we noted that every time the NSA is asked about its ability to spy on everyone, it answers about its authority. And, here's evidence that it has clearly been given the "authority" to spy on Americans, contrary to the very clear language of the law.
Also, the timing of this seems interesting. Earlier, we'd noted that the NSA's massive data collection program, Stellar Wind, had been shut down in 2011. And... right about that time suddenly a new law is put in place allowing 702 searches to happen on US persons? I'm sure that's just a complete coincidence...
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 16th 2013 9:12am
Either The Solicitor General Lied To The Supreme Court, Or Senator Feinstein Lied To The Public About Warrantless Wiretapping
from the pick-one dept
The Supreme Court Justices were clearly troubled by the idea that the government could implement a secret surveillance program that could never be challenged in court, and homed in on that key point in questioning the Solicitor General of the US (and former top RIAA litigator), Donald Verrilli. As the NY Times notes, Verrilli insisted that it simply was not true that no one would ever have standing, because if the government ever used information from such surveillance programs in a court case against someone, the government would have to reveal that the info came via that program.
“Is there anybody who has standing?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.Got that? Of course people would have standing, because the government has to tell them where the information came from. So those people could always challenge the program. When the eventual Supreme Court ruling came out, the majority decision relied very heavily on this particular claim:
Yes, said Mr. Verrilli, giving what he called a “clear example." If the government wants to use information gathered under the surveillance program in a criminal prosecution, he said, the source of the information would have to be disclosed. The subjects of such surveillance, he continued, would have standing to challenge the program.
...if the Government intends to use or disclose information obtained or derived from a §1881a acquisition in judicial or administrative proceedings, it must provide advance notice of its intent, and the affected person may challenge the lawfulness of the acquisition.... Thus, if the Government were to prosecute one of respondent-attorney’s foreign clients using §1881a-authorized surveillance, the Government would be required to make a disclosure.... In such a situation, unlike in the present case, it would at least be clear that the Government had acquired the foreign client’s communications using §1881a-authorized surveillance.Ok. Now, here's the important part. In defending the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which is what enabled these kinds of warrantless wiretaps, politicians have been pointing to all of those "examples" where this program was supposedly instrumental in "stopping terrorists." And this includes a few cases that involved federal prosecutions. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the staunchest defender of these programs, has called out two specific prosecutions as "specific cases where FISA Amendments Act authorities were used," saying that "these cases show the program has worked."
While it's arguable whether or not these cases actually showed whether or not the program worked, they do give us two cases where, according to the US Solicitor General and the Supreme Court, the feds were required to reveal to the defendants the source of the information. And take a wild guess whether or not the government actually informed the defendant how it obtained the info? You're psychic!
In a prosecution in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., against two brothers accused of plotting to bomb targets in New York, the government has said it plans to use information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA, which authorized individual warrants. But prosecutors have refused to say whether the government obtained those individual warrants based on information derived from the 2008 law, which allows programmatic surveillance.In fact, the magistrate judge in the Florida case has told the government it needs to disclose whether or not the surveillance was based on the FAA, but the government, so far, is refusing to say anything, and is asking the court to reconsider.
Prosecutors in Chicago have taken the same approach in a prosecution of teenager accused of plotting to blow up a bar.
As far as I can tell, there are a few possibilities here, none of them good:
- Solicitor General Donald Verrilli lied to the Supreme Court about whether or not the federal government would need to reveal the source of surveillance info obtained under the FAA.
- Senator Dianne Feinstein lied to Congress about the FAA supposedly being instrumental in those cases.
- The US Attorneys are now withholding information they are, by law, required to reveal.
The ACLU has called this "a shell game" and it's that and more. No matter where you point for the legal authority to challenge these programs, the government insists you have to look elsewhere. Can't sue the companies, but can sue the government. Can't sue the government unless you can prove standing. Can't prove standing unless you're in a case which involves this surveillance, at which point we have to tell you. Of course, in cases where it's been revealed that this kind of surveillance is used, well, now the government insists it doesn't have to admit that. Basically, the feds are going to keep trying to avoid ever having to face an actual legal challenge on this, which suggests they know the reality: the program is illegal and unconstitutional. If they were sure that it was a legitimate, constitutional program, why not just stand up in court and say that?
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 10th 2013 1:43pm
Remember When Supreme Court Rejected Review Of FISA Amendments Act, Because It Was 'Too Speculative' That Plaintiffs Were Being Monitored?
from the can-we-get-a-recount? dept
Yet respondents have no actual knowledge of the Government’s §1881a targeting practices. Instead, respondents merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with their foreign contacts will be acquired under §1881a. .... “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing” standing—and, at the summary judgment stage, such a party “can no longer rest on . . . ‘mere allegations,’ but must ‘set forth’ by affidavit or other evidence ‘specific facts.’”.... Respondents, however, have set forth no specific facts demonstrating that the communications of their foreign contacts will be targeted. Moreover, because §1881a at most authorizes—but does not mandate or direct—the surveillance that respondents fear, respondents’ allegations are necessarily conjectural. .... Simply put, respondents can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target.The court also points out that since the FISA Court could block such an attempt, the plaintiffs would also need to show that the FISC authorized the surveillance.
...even if respondents could show that the Government will seek the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s authorization to acquire the communications of respondents’ foreign contacts under §1881a, respondents can only speculate as to whether that court will authorize such surveillanceRight. So, given the now leaked documents showing that the FISA Court ordered the data on all phone calls from Verizon, and the further admission from multiple Senators that this program has been happening continuously since at least 2007, perhaps someone should be filing a lawsuit (if they haven't already), and using the latest leaks as proof of standing...