Anti-War Activists Get Green Light to Sue Over Spying

A group of anti-war groups has been given the right to sue the federal government over infiltration and spying by the military (not the FBI). The 9th Circuit Court of appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, giving them standing to sue over a range of First and Fourteenth Amendment violations.

A federal appeals court involving antiwar activists who were secretly infiltrated by US military spies has ruled in favor of the activists, marking the first time a court has endorsed the people’s ability to sue the military for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“Declassified documents obtained by Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance,”reports Democracy Now, “revealed a man everyone knew as ‘John Jacob’ was in fact John Towery,” who was assigned by the government to spy on the Washington state-based antiwar groups.

Towery was dispatched from a “fusion center,” or intelligence center, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism surveillance powers.

In October, the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee reviewed more than 600 reports that had come out of these so-called fusion centers and found the giant bureaucracy surrounding the program produced almost nothing that had to do with countering terrorist threats.

According to the National Lawyers Guild, this is an unprecedented ruling, which makes me wonder if it will hold up on appeal.

In a potentially precedent-setting decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a Guild lawyer’s challenge to military spying on peace activists can proceed. The ruling marks the first time a court has affirmed people’s ability to sue the military for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“This has never been done before,” said NLG member attorney Larry Hildes, who is handling the case. “The U.S. government has spied on political dissidents throughout history and this particular plot lasted through two presidencies, but never before has a court said that we can challenge it the way we have.”

Given the current Supreme Court’s zeal for dismissing cases based on standing, I have to wonder if this will survive an appeal. Chief Justice John Roberts has a real fetish for limiting who can and cannot sue the government, so I won’t be at all surprised if the court were to overturn this ruling and dismiss the case.

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  • naturalcynic

    Is this a violation of osse comitatus for the military to be involved domestically?

  • schweinhundt

    It seems that Truthout’s take is a little off—see the article linked below. Apparently, he was an Army civilian moonlighting for a local police department. So, technically, he wasn’t military or from Homeland Security. Interesting fodder, nonetheless, for new rulings on Posse Comitatus, etc.

  • wscott

    Thanks schweinhundt, that version makes a lot more sense. Still concerning that state & local police are spying on activists (tho hardly unheard of), but doesn’t really have much to do with the military. They could probably still sue the Federal government, because even though fusion centers consist mainly of state & local law enforcement, much of their funding typically comes from Federal grants.

  • Ed:

    How are the Ivaschustfollowinkorders minions of Heimatssicherheitabteilung gonna guarantee the continued freedom of our people to speak out–even when that outspeaking sounds scary as hell–if we don’t keep an eye on people who are saying things that have been said by, well, HITLERSTALINPOLPOT, and have led to death and revolution and shit–especially when, after having been infiltrated, co-opted, coerced and supplied with the means they DO shit like that.? Huh, who ya gonna call? Not Ghostbusters, that’s for damned sure!