Escalating legal action against domestic surveillance

The ongoing revelations about spying on United States citizens here at home as well as on the nation’s key allies abroad have caused a political uproar that has triggered, for example, the abrupt expulsion of the Central Intelligence Agency(“CIA”) Station Chief from Germany. The revelations also include the recent disclosure that the National Security Agency (“NSA”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) have been subjecting prominent attorneys, professors, and other community leaders to warrantless surveillance. Notably, a primary target of the domestic spying has been a Department of Homeland Security attorney. In effect, the Federal government has been spying on itself as well as on the general public. Such surveillance raises serious questions about whether the officials entrusted with respecting and protecting sacred civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution, including the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment, are actually upholding their legal duties.

The concerns over the Federal government’s conduct span the political spectrum. For example, Republican Senator Rand Paul filed one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever to address domestic spying exposed by Edward Snowden and others. More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) filed a lawsuit challenging a counterterrorism program adopted in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The implementation of this program has allegedly resulted in the erroneous placement of high-profile, law-abiding citizens in a database of potential terrorists because those citizens supposedly engaged in “suspicious activity.” The constitutional lawyers prosecuting the civil rights case contend that the Federal government has been engaging in racial and religious profiling – that is, in discrimination. If the plaintiffs prevail in these and related cases, the consequences could be far-reaching – both politically and legally.