Three former NSA employees expose ‘mass illegal surveillance’ in court
By End the Lie
The National Security Agency (NSA), which has recently been protected from having to disclose their relationship with the search engine giant and data mining powerhouse Google, is back in court over the case Jewel v. NSA.
The case, which was reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in late 2011, is challenging the NSA’s now well known massive warrantless surveillance program.
This case is more important than ever with the NSA pouring a whopping $2 billion into a heavily fortified data center which will almost certainly be used to monitor the communications of Americans. The National Counterterrorism Center’s new guidelines allowing extended data retention make matters even worse, if you can imagine such a thing.
Three former employees of the NSA, William E. Binney, Thomas A. Drake, and J. Kirk Wiebe, have come forward with evidence to back up a case being valiantly fought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
In a motion filed in the 9th Circuit on July 2, the three whistleblowers, all former intelligence analysts, confirmed the fact that, “the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the ‘secret room’ at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006,” according to the EFF.
The EFF is also now asking the court to reject the government’s now tired “state secret” arguments in order to allow the case to actually move forward.
“For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people,” explained Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s Legal Director.
“Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused,” said Cohn. “We’re extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program.”
All three former NSA employees have made quite an effort to expose the wholly unacceptable surveillance program, including bringing the program to the attention of the New York Times.
The leak quickly made them the targets of a federal investigation due to the fact that the New York Times coverage quickly ignited controversy in the media and public sphere over the gigantic warrantless wiretapping program.
Thankfully, both Binney and Wiebe were formally cleared of all the charges against them, while Drake had the charges dropped.
In the EFF’s motion for partial summary judgment they requested that the court move to no longer accept the government’s attempts to shut down the case without even addressing the facts by invoking the claim that it is too secret to even address.
Instead of allowing the government lawyers to fall back on this tactic, the EFF is seeking to apply the processes under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which require the court to actually rule if the electronic surveillance was conducted in a legal manner.
However, I believe it is worth pointing out that FISA leaves a lot to be desired, as well as the court which sign off on FISA warrants. This is because the courts authorized every single request from the government in 2011, according to the government’s own report, which makes the entire process farcical.
“The NSA warrantless surveillance programs have been the subject of widespread reporting and debate for more than six years now. They are just not a secret,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien rightly pointed out.
“Yet the government keeps making the same ‘state secrets’ claims again and again,” Tien said. “It’s time for Americans to have their day in court and for a judge to rule on the legality of this massive surveillance.”
Well said, Tien. Let’s just hope that the American people do get their day in court and that this unimaginably expansive surveillance program is shut down before we descend even deeper into a complete surveillance state.
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