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