2nd Circuit Court Of Appeals: NSA Spying Program Illegal

Secular Talk

Sources state that on Thursday, a panel of three federal judges from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the NSA’s bulk-phone records spying program was illegal.

Reuters states:  “Ruling on a program revealed by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.

“Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI’s ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a “staggering” amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Also, According to the National Journal, more court decisions are on the way:

“Two other appeals courts have in recent months heard arguments considering the legality of the NSA bulk telephone program, but neither has issued a ruling yet. Any split among the courts likely will prompt a Supreme Court review.

Boing Boing and The Electronic Frontier Foundation state:

1. When Congress gave the NSA the power to gather “relevant” information and do so for an “investigation,” they didn’t mean “gather everything and store it forever in case it becomes relevant later.”

2. Having your data collected by the NSA gives you the right to sue them — even if the NSA never looked at that data.

3. Metadata is sensitive information, and the NSA can’t argue that its mass-spying is harmless because it’s collecting metadata instead of data (the fact that you called a suicide hotline is every bit as compromising as what you said while you were talking to them).

4. The judges have “concerns” about the constitutionality of mass spying (though the didn’t go so far as to say that it is unconstitutional, partly because the ACLU had already won on the statutory language alone).

5. One judge added: The government shouldn’t have secret laws. The government argued that its interpretation of surveillance laws was a secret, and the court spanked them for it, saying that a law that’s “shrouded in secrecy” lacked legitimacy.





Texas Abortion Clinics Decline Through Piecemeal Legislation

According to Bloomberg, at the start of 2013, there were 41 abortion clinics in Texas. Then the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, which had already cut funding for family-planning services and reduced the availability of subsidized contraception, passed a law requiring doctors performing abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

That’s often tough, because many hospitals refuse to be associated with abortion providers. Today only 17 of the state’s clinics remain in business.

Now a federal appeals court in New Orleans is weighing whether to uphold another part of the Texas law that mandates that abortion clinics meet building codes for surgical outpatient centers.  For example, they must have hallways wide enough to accommodate stretchers.

Lawmakers who voted for the bill say their goal was to protect patient safety, but abortion providers say the expense of remodeling or moving to meet the standards would force all but seven of the remaining facilities to close. That, abortion rights activists say, violates a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says states can’t place an “undue burden” on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. “Texas now seeks to do indirectly what, for 40 years, it has been unable to do directly: eliminate millions of women’s access to safe and legal abortion services,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in court filings.

Two of the three judges hearing the case ruled against the clinics in a separate challenge last March.

The Supreme Court has already intervened to let clinics keep operating without meeting the building requirements as the case proceeds, and Justice Stephen Breyer indicated in an earlier opinion that the court’s four liberal justices would be willing to hear the case if the clinics lose.

While the court battle progresses, abortion providers and their allies have moved to set up a system for maintaining services in Texas. Planned Parenthood expects to open a $6.5 million ambulatory surgical center in San Antonio in the next few weeks that meets the legal requirements. That would bring the state’s total to eight if the courts rule against the clinics. Activists have also created travel funds to pay for bus or airline tickets and hotel rooms for women who need abortions but can’t afford the trip to a clinic.

One of the newest, Fund Texas Choice, recently hired a full-time staff member to handle requests. “What we’re doing is putting out fires, because right now Texas is in a state of emergency,” says founder Lenzi Sheible, a 21-year-old law student. “If we’re not prepared for the eventuality that there will only be eight clinics in Texas, then we’re not doing our job.”