Tags Posts tagged with "courts"

By Jean Paul Zodeaux

Only 11 days after a federal judge ruled that the bulk data collection that the NSA has been engaged in might be unconstitutional, a separate ruling by different federal judge has now held that the federal government is acting perfectly legally in spying on its own citizenry.  On December 16th of this year, Judge Richard J. Leon held that the NSA spying was nearly “Orwellian” and guessing that the massive data collection is probably unconstitutional.  On the 27th of December, Judge William H. Pauley held an entirely different opinion on the federal governments spying program, practically gushing with pro-government naivete and foregoing jurisprudence in favor of emotional demagoguery.

Nearly the exact opposite of the December 16th ruling in Klayman v Obama, Judge Pauley’s ruling in ACLU v Clapper is astoundingly bereft of any substantive law.  Of the ruling, the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said:

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections.” 

Of it’s dubious victory – the ACLU will undoubtedly appeal this ruling – a spokesperson for the Justice Department had this to say:

“We are pleased the court found the N.S.A.’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful.”

One of the most striking differences between the two rulings and the two judges is the understanding of how effective the massive data collection actually is in deterring terrorist attacks.  Where Judge Leon held that the federal government had failed to make a credible argument as to how the massive data collection has worked in preventing terrorist attacks, Judge Pauley held the opposite and held that had the NSA had this program in place prior to to 9-11 2001 that the World Trade Center towers might still be standing.

Even more striking in its differences are the judges opposing views on the constitutionality of the NSA spy program, with Judge Leon musing that it may not find constitutionality, and Judge Pauley insisting that it is perfectly constitutional, and that difference of opinion comes down to differing opinions on precedent in Smith v. Maryland.  The principle behind the Smith v Maryland ruling is that an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in regards to information that is shared with a third party.

The question of whether Smith v Maryland will withstand the judicial test of time is clearly at play with regards to the legality of the NSA data collection.  The ruling was held in 1979 before the information revolution and the advent of the internet, and our understanding of “third parties” is quite a bit different today than it was in 1979.  Even so, back in 1979 the ruling was questionable to begin with as one of its legal principles is that if an individual shares information with another party he no longer holds any expectation of privacy.

One need only look to reality to see the problem with this principle.  The federal government requires corporations to collect information from their customers.  Some of these corporations, such as banks, are particularly difficult to avoid as a customer in this day and age, so in order to have a bank account, that individual must surrender over information, that now, according to the SCOTUS, has no reasonable expectation of privacy.  It is a racket that the Supreme Court facilitated with Smith v Maryland and the principle behind it needs to be discarded in favor one that seeks to protect the privacy of the people government is presumably protecting.

 

An affront to journalists and the right to free press, a judge in Will County Illinois has ordered a reporter to reveal how he got confidential police documents, and until he reveals his source, he will be fined $300 a day, and if he doesn’t pay in 6 months, he will face incarceration.

The jist of the story is that a journalist was reporting about a double murder and used confidential police documents in part of his report. Somehow the courts got wind of this and instead of trying to solve the murder case, tried to find out who gave up the documents. In fact, the police department gathered 500 sworn statements by employees saying that they did not give up the document.

Why is it so important for a journalist to protect his sources? The most important reason is so that we can continue to get good, otherwise confidential information. When judges force a reporter to reveal his source, then in the future sources will not speak with reporters, and we will have less information. This is especially important for libertarians when it comes to finding out about the government. Now, the Snowden case is an extreme example, but just think about how much transparency there would be if NSA employees knew that they weren’t going to be chased to the ends of the earth for revealing illegal activities by the government.

The other reason why this is so ridiculous is that if reporters cannot get good information, then they cannot do their job well, which is to inform the public. Enough people complain that journalism isn’t the same today as it used to be, and judges like this one sure aren’t helping.

 

Image courtesy of NRCgov on Flickr

You have to read this story about a young man, Donovan Drayton, who got caught in a bad situation, and was a suspect in murder investigation in New York. He was charged with murder and, even though he was 19 with no criminal history, the judge would not grant him bail. I will let you read all of the details, but ultimately he was acquitted of the murder charge, after spending five years in jail.

It seems that we are in an age where it takes longer to get your case tried in court, especially in New York, even though there are less cases than there once was. The reason that these cases take so long to get to court is that the prosecution and judges try to get people to accept plea deals, mostly because of lack of evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person was guilty. In this instance, the judge told Drayton that if he did not take the deal, he could be facing life in prison if he did not accept the 18-year deal the prosecution was offering.

In fact, the two people that were with Drayton at the time of the incident actually accepted plea deals, which showed that they were liars and is actually one of the main reasons that he was acquitted.

So, what do we learn here? That our court system is corrupt; that policemen aren’t usually very certain who the actual criminals; that they are lazy and sometimes do not conduct full investigations, figuring they will bully people into confessing? The most important lesson in this story is that the truth will always set you free.

The whole story reminds me of the movie Flash of Genius, where Robert Kearns invents the intermittent windshield wiper, and Ford steals his patented design. He fights the case for over 20 years and eventually proves in court, against all odds, that they did steal his idea. So many negative thoughts went through my mind when reading the story of Donovan Drayton, but at the end of the day, he had good people (his dad) and the truth on his side, and the truth finally came out.

 

Photo courtesy of Earl Douglas