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US Supreme Court takes pass on cyberspying petition

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Although the Supreme Court of the United States decided Monday, not to consider a petition challenging the legality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, one cybersecurity expert at IU expects the issue will eventually come before the nine justices.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Fred Cate said he was not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision but was still disappointed.

The petition was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center after disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the federal government was collecting telephone data on all U.S. citizens. EPIC argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its legal authority when it ordered Verizon Business Network Services Inc. to turn over to the NSA all telephone records on all customers.

Cate was the lead author of an amicus curiae brief that supported the petition’s call for the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus. After the petition was filed, Cate conceded the probability of the court granting the petition’s request for a writ of mandamus was slim. However, the petition argued, the court had to act because the NSA ignored Congress’s directives.

If the Supreme Court had granted the writ of mandamus, that would have prevented the government from overstepping its authority. Instead, the court sent the opposite message.   

“What the Supreme Court has said, by not saying anything, is ‘tough luck,’” Cate said.

The Obama administration argued the Supreme Court should deny the petition because it had not been considered by the district courts. The problem with that argument, Cate said, is that the district courts and the FISC are on equal footing and one does not have authority over the other.

Even so, a fair number of other petitions charging that FISC’s exclusive jurisdiction is unconstitutional are pending in district courts. A district court or appellate court agreeing with a petitioner would cause the administration to urge the Supreme Court to get involved, Cate said. Federal officials will likely contend the issue is one of national security.

The mere filing of these petitions will not be enough to get the NSA and the administration to rethink its actions, Cate said. In fact, the only thing that got their attention was the concern from industry and foreign leaders over the cyberspying by the United States.







 
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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