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Cybersecurity expert: ruling on surveillance program ‘extraordinarily significant’

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Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Fred Cate heralded the decision handed down Dec. 16 by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon as possibly landing a crippling blow to the federal government’s surveillance program.

The judge found the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata from billions of Americans’ phone calls to be unconstitutional. He ruled the surveillance program on virtually all calls made by customers of major U.S. phone companies violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

Cate, who also directs the IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, said by finding a constitutional violation, Leon made it considerably harder for Congress or the Obama administration to resurrect the program with operational or legislative changes.

“This is an extraordinarily significant decision,” Cate said, “and while it is certain to be appealed and so (this) is just the beginning of a longer process, it raises the bar for government surveillance today, and I suspect we will look back at this decision in the future as marking a key turning point in re-establishing some balance between the rights of people and the power of our government.”

Earlier in 2013, Cate authored an amicus brief in support of the effort by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to get the Supreme Court of the United States to curtail the surveillance activities by issuing a writ of mandamus. The high court decided a month ago not to consider EPIC’s petition.

Leon questioned the government’s claims about the importance of metadata collection for national security, and he rejected the administration’s argument about the limited role of courts. 

In its filings, the government had argued that individuals whose data was being collected had no right to challenge the constitutionality of the surveillance because Congress had granted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exclusive jurisdiction over such cases but had only permitted the government to appear before that secret court.

Leon held a citizen’s right to judicial review should not be cut off because the government wants its actions to remain secret.

Cate pointed out the government has been making the same arguments in response to the numerous challenges to sweeping surveillance activities.

“Those arguments are shocking in their breadth and disingenuousness – namely, that even if the American public has had its rights violated, there is not way to seek remedy,” the Maurer professor said. “Judge Leon properly rejected those arguments outright.”

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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