U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision was a major blow to the two suits testing warrantless eavesdropping and executive branch powers implemented following the 2001 terror attacks. The San Francisco judge said the courts are not available to the public to mount that challenge.
“A citizen may not gain standing by claiming a right to have the government follow the law,” (.pdf) Walker ruled late Thursday.
Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that brought one of the cases, said the decision means “when you’re trying to stop the government from doing something illegal, and if the government does it to enough people, the courts can’t fix it.”
The greatest human achievement is the subordination of government to law. This was an English achievement that required eight centuries of struggle, beginning in the ninth century when King Alfred the Great codified the common law, moving forward with the Magna Carta in the thirteenth century and culminating with the Glorious Revolution in the late seventeenth century.
The success of this long struggle made law a shield of the people. As an English colony, America inherited this unique achievement that made English speaking peoples the most free in the world.
As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions (2000), the protective features of law in the U.S. were eroded in the twentieth century by prosecutorial abuse and by setting aside law in order to better pursue criminals. By the time of our second edition (2008), law as a shield of the people no longer existed. Respect for the Constitution and rule of law had given way to executive branch claims that during time of war government is not constrained by law or Constitution.
This country needs to get a grip. We need a slap in the face, a splash of cold water.
On Saturday, 57-year-old Jules Paul Bouloute opened an emergency exit inside the American Airlines terminal at Kennedy airport. Alarms blared and sirens flashed. Bouloute later told police that he’d opened the door by accident.
Which is what you’d assume. Sure, the exit was clearly marked, but it happens all the time, does it not?
All of Terminal 8 was evacuated for more than two hours. Police then swept through the building with dogs and SWAT teams (because, you see, a terrorist wouldn’t quietly drop an explosive device into a trash barrel; he would first set off alarms, in order to…?). Before being allowed back in, thousands of travelers were forced to undergo rescreening at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, giving guards a chance to snag any butter knives or 4-ounce shampoo bottles they might have missed the first time. Inbound planes were stranded on the tarmac and departures were delayed for several hours.
Phi Beta Iota: The Judge as a reasonable proposition, to wit, the legislature is the “general” representative of the people, and when the Executive violates the legal rights of so many, it is the legislature that should act. Unfortunately, as others have documented (see recommended sources below), both the Legislature and the Executive have moved beyond the procedural soverign authority of the public. Therein lies the American political dilemma of the near-term. As for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that is merely idiocy incarnate–tens of thousands of gerbils doing the best they can in following top-down orders from people without a clue.