United States federal judge

NSA collection of phone data is lawful, federal judge rules

NSA Logo

Of course this Federal Judge is not the final arbiter of this matter but it does put a bit of a damper in Snowden’s “I was right…I’m exonerated” meme.  Thoughts?

Washington Post

A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision conflicts with that of a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against the government early last week, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. The divergent decisions make it more likely that the Supreme Court will make its own ruling.

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Friday the legality of the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, is “ultimately a question of reasonableness,” under the Fourth Amendment and represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Pauley said that if the U.S. government had the phone data collection program before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it could have helped provide critical clues. He said that so-called telephone metadata might have permitted the NSA to notify the FBI that one of the terrorists was calling a Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the government is “pleased the court found the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful.”

In a statement, the ACLU said it intended to appeal the case.

“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relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director.

Pauley’s opinion comes 11 days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the NSA’s collection of bulk telephony metadata is based on “almost-Orwellian technology.”In that opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a request for an injunction that blocked the collection of the phone data of conservative legal activist Larry Klayman and a co-plaintiff. Leon stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

As the issue plays out in the courts, Congress is debating whether the NSA’s sweeping collection of phone data should be curtailed. A panel appointed by President Obama recommended this month the NSA should no longer store the data.

Federal Judge orders Sheriff Arpaio to stop arresting people simply because he thinks they are undocumented

Think Progress

Less than two weeks after the Department of Justice found widespread lawlessness and abuse of Latinos by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies, an Arizona federal judge ordered Arpaio to end one of his most abusive practices — detaining and arresting people who have committed no crime merely because his office suspects them of being undocumented.

The court also certified this lawsuit against Arpaio as a class action, thereby empowering any Latino stopped or detained by Arpaio’s office since 2007 or at any point in the future to enforce the court order.

Roger Vinson, Florida Judge Who Ruled On Health Reform, Has His Own Medical Care Story

Huffington Post

The judge who ruled the Obama administration’s health care overhaul unconstitutional questioned whether the government was reaching beyond its power by requiring citizens to buy health insurance because everyone needs medical care.

Under that logic, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said, the government could force Americans to buy clothes or food. Vinson, who sided with 26 states fighting the much-maligned measure, revealed his own health care story during arguments several weeks ago, an example that helped shed light on his ruling Monday.

When Vinson was a law student and his wife gave birth to their first child, he paid a doctor in cash.

“It amounted to about $100 a pound,” the 70-year-old jurist joked in December.

Vinson, an ex-Navy pilot appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, is known for maintaining control of his courtroom while letting everyone have their say. He loves camellia flowers and has handled cases from abortion clinic bombings to veterans rights to racial discrimination.

“I think being a former Navy officer, he is used to being in control of things but not being a tyrant,” said attorney Bud Day, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War who has tried numerous cases in front of Vinson.

The judge’s ruling produced an even split in federal court decisions so far on the health care law, mirroring enduring divisions among the public. Two judges had previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees. A Republican appointee in Virginia had ruled against it.

The Justice Department quickly announced it would appeal, and administration officials declared that for now the federal government and the states would proceed without interruption to carry out the law. It seemed evident that only the U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a final verdict on Obama’s historic expansion of health insurance coverage.

On Capitol Hill, Republican opponents of the law pledged to redouble pressure for a repeal vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate following House action last month. Nearly all of the states that brought suit in Vinson’s court have GOP attorneys general or governors.    More…

Jim DeMint still battling to keep Murkowski from Senate

Senator Jim De Mint(ed) is at it again.  How much more dispicable can DeMint become?

McClatchy

For all his success in helping elect ultraconservatives to the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint now must face the difficult consequences of one spectacular, all but certain failure.

Even as DeMint says he would welcome fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski back to the Senate, the South Carolinian is still urging conservative activists around the country to donate money to replace the Alaskan incumbent with tea party favorite Joe Miller.

DeMint, who raised $5.6 million for ultraconservative GOP candidates this year, has attached a personal appeal letter to a CONTRIBUTE banner and a photo of Miller at the top of http://www.senateconservatives.com , the Web site of his Senate Conservatives Fund.

“Joe Miller can win this race, but he’s up against a well-financed legal team that is working for Lisa Murkowski,” DeMint writes. “They will be fighting to bend the law in Alaska, which requires write-in ballots to accurately state the candidate’s name.”

Before a federal judge Friday temporarily froze the final outcome, Murkowski appeared to have won a historic write-in campaign against Miller in the Nov. 2 general election, overcoming DeMint’s contribution of more than $627,000 to Miller.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline suspended Murkowski’s certification as winner provided that Miller demands a recount in state court by Monday, a step he was prepared to take despite the long odds of overtaking Murkowski’s lead of about 2,000 votes.

Miller won Alaska’s Aug. 25 Senate Republican primary, prompting Murkowski to launch her write-in effort – and setting off a bitter, drawn-out exchange of actions and words with DeMint that may not end any time soon.

Murkowski has responded coolly to DeMint’s recent peace signals.

“He has suggested that he’s got some making up to do,” Murkowski told CNN on Nov. 12. “I’ll let him make the first move.”

Beyond its political intrigue, the DeMint-Murkowski tussle reveals the deeper ideological struggle within the Republican Party between hard-liners unwilling to bend their principles and moderates who say governing requires compromise.

DeMint’s badly damaged relationship with Murkowski also shows the tightrope he’s treading as he tries to remake the Senate in his ultraconservative image from inside the august chamber while backing anti-establishment rabble-rousers on the outside.

Continue reading…

Joe Miller Vote Count Challenge: Judge Temporarily Halts Certification Of Murkowski Win

This man just won’t concede to defeat…

Huffington Post

An Alaska federal judge ruled Friday that Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller’s challenge to the counting of write-in ballots raises “serious” legal issues but is a matter for a state, not federal, court to decide.

Yet in deferring to an Alaska state court for a final decision, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said he would grant a temporary injunction to halt official certification of the Nov. 2 election – an action Miller is seeking – so long as Miller takes his case to the state court by Monday. Miller told The Associated Press late Friday that he intended to do so.

Beistline’s unusual action was intended to “ensure that these serious state law issues are resolved prior to certification of the election,” the ruling said.

Miller sued in federal court in a bid to stop the state from using discretion in determining voter intent on write-in ballots cast for his election rival, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who declared victory in the race Wednesday. She mounted the write-in campaign after losing to Miller in the GOP primary.

State law calls for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in and the candidate’s last name or name as it appears on their declaration of candidacy written.

But the state pointed to case law in counting Murkowski ballots that contain misspellings or were phonetic to her name. Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees elections, has defended the practice, saying the state doesn’t want to disenfranchise any voters.

Miller wants the law adhered to strictly, and asked Beistline to keep the state from certifying the election results based on a count of ballots that aren’t in line with it. The target date for certifying the race is Nov. 29. A recount can then be requested by Dec. 4.

Beistline said a state court is in “the best position, at least initially, to apply Alaska law and to determine who won this election.”

But he also said he’d “remain available to review any constitutional issues that may exist once the state remedies have been exhausted.”

Continue reading…

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Md. Judge: Military Contractors Can Be Sued

A paratrooper from 1st Battalion (Airborne), 5...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, this is great news! For years, the likes of Blackwater, Halliburton, KBR and others have operated with carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, without fear of being prosecuted or litigated in Iraq and in the United States.  Perhaps now, that will finally change.  This is a start…

The New York Times

A federal judge says military contractors can be sued by soldiers and others who allege they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus ruled last week in Maryland that military contractors including Halliburton Co. must face lawsuits alleging the soldiers were exposed to toxic emissions and contaminated water when they burned waste in open pits.

Titus is overseeing 43 lawsuits filed in 42 states on the issue. The contractors sought to have the lawsuits dismissed.

Titus said the courts must treat lawsuits against such contractors with caution to protect military missions abroad. But he said courts must be prepared to decide such cases if people were harmed.