A judge who once said a case against National Security Agency surveillance of Americans was at the “pinnacle of national importance” but later dismissed it entirely is being asked by a plaintiff whether the “deep state” got to him.
Plaintiff and lawyer Larry Klayman explained the question has been asked several times, and the judge has refused to answer.
Klayman challenged: “The failure and refusal to simply answer this legitimate question, when asked on multiple occasions, has been taken as an admission by the plaintiff and pro se counsel in his own capacity that there have been ex parte communications with these government entities and/or their agents.
The lawyer, whose activism in Washington was memorialized by a character on the TV show “West Wing,” explained the plaintiffs need the answer to determine their next step.
“As one time Your Honor called these cases the ‘pinnacle of national importance.’ It is thus likely that something happened in the intervening years, such as pressure from the FBI and intelligence agencies, which have committed several now documented continuing illegalities concerning unconstitutional surveillance without probable cause, to have caused this court to jettison these matters on what on their face are clearly contrived, non-meritorious and even frivolous grounds.”
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It was Judge Richard Leon in Washington who on Wednesday, after years of leaving the case unattended, decided he should dismiss the claim that originally was based on the federal government spying on Americans through their cell phone records.
Leon got snarky in his dismissal, claiming that Klayman didn’t address his concerns about “lack of standing mootness, and lack of jurisdiction.”
He notes Klayman had argued for the case to be kept alive, “but nowhere in his response did Klayman address the jurisdictional defects this court raised or otherwise address why this case should not be dismissed. Instead, Klayman accused this court of being ‘coopted by the so called ‘Deep State’” into ruling against him. … Such baseless accusations are no substitute for a well-pleaded complaint.”
The government has argued throughout that that concern, and all the others, should be dismissed.
At the time, Klayman said, “While the media is focused on the so-called Russian election hacking ‘scandal,’ it ignores the fact that our own government has committed the biggest violation of constitutional rights in American history, leaving the intelligence agencies free to continue their pattern and practice of violating the law in its intelligence gathering operations.”
Klayman, at the beginning of the case, sued the NSA, Barack Obama, then-Attorney General Eric Holder and a number of other federal officials over government access to cell telephone metadata. Other defendants include NSA chief Keith Alexander, U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Roger Vinson, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA chief John Brennan, FBI chief James Comey, the Department of Justice, the CIA and the FBI.
Plaintiffs in the case include Klayman, Charles and Mary Ann Strange, Michael Ferrari, Matt Garrison and J.J. Little.
The data that the NSA collects, they explained in a brief, “reveals political affiliation, religious practices and peoples’ most intimate associations.”
“It reveals who calls a suicide prevention line and who calls their elected official; who calls the local tea-party office and who calls Planned Parenthood.”
The groups’ brief said “the relevant fact for whether an expectation of privacy exists is that the comprehensive telephone records the government collects – not just the records of a few calls over a few days but all of a person’s calls over many years – reveals highly personal information about the person and her life.”
Originally, Leon commented that such spying likely was unconstitutional.
In Klayman’s case, Leon ruled Dec. 16, 2013, and again Nov. 9, 2015, barred the government agency and Obama from “conducting mass telephonic metadata surveillance over the plaintiffs.”
Leon described the government’s secret operations as “almost Orwellian.”
The program was in the news at the time after it was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has sought refuge in Russia.
The NSA has been taking – without permission and, until Snowden’s leak, without consumers knowing – the records of millions of Americans’ telephone calls.
The data includes the telephone numbers and the length of the call.
However, action on the case simply stalled, and it was left unattended until Leon’s dismissal.