On Tuesday, the Supreme Court disemboweled the Fourth Amendment. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that citizens cannot challenge government wiretapping laws, in particular the unconstitutional Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and, more recently, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
According to Justice Samuel Alito, millions of Americans can no longer expect the government to uphold the Constitution and prevent the NSA from conducting dragnet surveillance.
The government established so-called “sovereign immunity” last August when the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco dismissed Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama following a December 2010 court case ruling the NSA’s warrantless wiretap program was illegal.
FISA is a near perfect scheme for the government. It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to rubber-stamp surveillance requests of supposed terrorists (the Justice Department claims there are over a million terrorists in America). The feds are not obliged to identify a target and they can conduct surveillance a week before making a FISA Court request. Surveillance can continue in the unlikely event that a request is denied and an appeal is set in motion.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Patriot Act. It allows federal agents to write their own search warrants in violation of the Fourth Amendment and does away with the FISA-issued search warrant requirement, itself blatantly unconstitutional.
“FISA gives the government unchecked authority to snoop on all Americans who communicate with any foreign person, in direct contravention of the Fourth Amendment,” Andrew Napolitano wrote in December. “The right to privacy is a natural human right. Its enshrinement in the Constitution has largely kept America from becoming East Germany.”
Alito’s argument rests on the fact that FISA is a secret court. “Yet respondents have no actual knowledge of the Government’s §1881a targeting practices. Instead, respondents merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with their foreign contacts will be acquired under §1881a,” he wrote.
Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented the ruling.
Tuesday’s ruling pitches the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure into the dustbin of history. It means we are one step closer to becoming East Germany where the Stasi conducted dragnet surveillance with impunity.
Stasi, however, was old school. The modern high-tech surveillance state is infinitely more effective and will be used to monitor the political attitudes of all Americans in dragnet fashion and ferret out for persecution – and elimination – those who pose a threat to the status quo.
This ruling has chilling, far-reaching implications for Occupy Wall Street activists and allied movements in the United States. But our eyes are wide open. Thanks to the help of various legal aid and civil rights organizations who regularly compile assessments of threats to freedom of speech, we are all able to keep track of repeated incidents of often under-the-radar harassment and intimidation by law enforcement against protestors.