Friday, 13 January 2012

Electronic Frontier Foundation soldiers on with Jewel v National Security Agency et al

This case is one of many arising from claims that the federal government, with the assistance of major telecommunications companies, engaged in widespread warrantless eavesdropping in the United States following the September 11, 2001, attacks. At issue in this appeal is whether Carolyn Jewel and other residential telephone customers (collectively “Jewel”) have standing to bring their statutory and constitutional claims against the government for what they describe as a communications dragnet of ordinary American citizens.
In light of detailed allegations and claims of harm linking Jewel to the intercepted telephone, internet and electronic communications, we conclude that Jewel’s claims are not abstract, generalized grievances and instead meet the constitutional standing requirement of concrete injury. Nor do prudential considerations bar this action…… [Jewel v NSA et al, No. 10-15616 3:08-cv-04373- VRW M:06-cv-01791-VRW]

Electronic Frontier Foundation article on 29 December 2011:

Justices Find that Spied-On Telephone Customers Have the Right to Sue

San Francisco - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today blocked the government's attempt to bury the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) lawsuit against the government's illegal mass surveillance program, returning Jewel v. NSA to the District Court for the next step.

The court found that Jewel had alleged sufficient specifics about the warrantless wiretapping program to proceed. Justices rejected the government's argument that the allegations about the well-known spying program and the evidence of the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco were too speculative.

"Since the dragnet spying program first came to light, we have been fighting for the chance to have a court determine whether it is legal," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Today, the Ninth Circuit has given us that chance, and we look forward to proving the program is an unconstitutional and illegal violation of the rights of millions of ordinary Americans.".

Also today, the court upheld the dismissal of EFF's other case aimed at ending the illegal spying, Hepting v. AT&T, which was the first lawsuit against a telecom over its participation in the dragnet domestic wiretapping. The court found that the so-called "retroactive immunity" passed by Congress to stop telecommunications customers from suing the companies is constitutional, in part because the claims remained against the government in Jewel v. NSA………

Today's decision comes nearly exactly six years after the first revelations of the warrantless wiretapping program were published in the New York Times on December 16, 2005. EFF will now move forward with the Jewel litigation in the Northern District of California federal court. The government is expected to raise the state secrets privilege as its next line of defense but this argument has already been rejected in other similar cases.

Jewel v NSA et al  full opinion 29 December 2011

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