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. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.