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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. government immune from lawsuits for warrantless wiretaps

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By Ken Hanly     Aug 8, 2012 in Crime
San Francisco - A Federal Appeals Court ruled yesterday (July 7) that the government cannot be sued for any illegal wiretaps. The attorney for the plaintiff claims the ruling means that the government cannot be held accountable for spying on its citizens.
In 2010 a San Francisco judge ruled in favor of a now-defunct Islamic foundation and found that the group had been wiretapped illegally by the U.S. Federal government without a warrant.
The judge also ruled that the group was owed $40,800 in damages as well as legal fees amounting to $2.5 million. The government paid nothing rather they spent more taxpayer money appealing the case. It is not surprising the group, the Al-Haramain Islamic foundation is now defunct. Attempting to obtain justice no doubt used up all their funds.
The three-judge appeal panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California wrote:“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization..
Under this scheme, Al-Haramain can bring a suit for damages against the United States for use of the collected information, but cannot bring suit against the government for collection of the information itself....Although such a structure may seem anomalous and even unfair, the policy judgment is one for Congress, not the courts.”
The court noted that the decision does not in any way question the integrity of the lawsuit, but the decision ensures that government will no longer be held accountable for collecting information illegally it would seem. Lawyer for the group Jon Eisenberg said:
“There is no accountability.....That is what is so distressful about this decision. It means that President Bush got away with it, and it means that President Obama will be able to get away with it and every president after him.”. We do know that spying on U.S. citizens is quite extensive.
In an interview a former National Security Agency technical director William Binney, along with another former senior official Thomas Drake have given an inside look at what is happening. Drake claims that government is giving itself the power to gather any information that could be used in future prosecutions even those unrelated to terrorism. Drake said:“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security.”
Binney also confirmed the broad reach of government spying in an interview with journalist Geoff Shively.“Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process"
No doubt the government will claim that this is all necessary to protect Americans against terrorism. However there is no protection against invasion of privacy for Americans even when that invasion is admittedly illegal.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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