Monday, September 22, 2014
Secret courts have worrying implications
Did you know that if the U.S. government decides that it wants to violate, i.e. trash, provisions of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, it simply creates secret federal courts of law that will rubber stamp all that it desires?
Well, now we know a small part of the ugly truth about our federal government, and we have exiled hero Edward Snowden to thank for it. He’s revealed some of the nasty secrets and Uncle Sam is out to get him for it.
We know, for example, that Uncle Sam secretly threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad warrantless demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — successfully forcing the company to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program.
Yahoo resisted the government’s demands but ultimately lost the battle in a secret court -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review -- which decided that the Fourth Amendment requirements for search warrants may simply be ignored when the government deems it necessary for national security purposes.
Now NSA enjoys extensive warrantless access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, also complied in secret. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling.
PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. It allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections. And the tech companies were bound by law to keep the governments nefarious activities secret.
Now we know that secret courts are constitutional because the secret judges say so, and using secret courts to trash the Bill of Rights is constitutional because the secret judges say so.
The implications are that our government is essentially lawless -- no provision of law in the United States of America is beyond the reach of government trashing in secret with secret courts.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).