Pfizer Case Continues
“…The second development is less high-profile, but also represents a victory of a sort. In Abdullahi v. Pfizer, a drug company is charged with experimenting on Nigerian children through a secret drug trial. In 1998, the experimental drug Trovan was given to sick children without authorization from their parents, and Pfizer allegedly orchestrated this testing; Trovan was later pulled from the market after it was found to cause acute liver failure. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit allowed an Alien Tort Statute case against Pfizer to proceed, finding that its alleged actions violated the international law prohibition against nonconsensual medical testing, a prohibition that dates back to Nazi atrocities involving human experimentation.
Pfizer has applied to the Supreme Court to overturn the Second Circuit’s decision. The court asked the U.S. government for its views on Pfizer’s petition; the government’s views are often strongly influential in determining whether the Supreme Court will hear a case. Under the Bush administration, the government had taken a very aggressive stance against ATS litigation, repeatedly trying to get cases thrown out on a variety of grounds. But the recent submission by the Obama Administration may signal a return to the restrained approach taken by prior administrations. …”
Case: Pfizer Inc., v. Rabi Abdullahi, et al.
ACLU Lawsuit Concerning NSA “spying”
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.
“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.”
“The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country.”
In Support of the ACLU lawsuit
“…The NRA isn’t the only right-leaning amicus in ACLU v. Clapper. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), author of the Patriot Act, who previously said he never meant the NSA to go as far as it did, has also filed a brief. Sensenbrenner accuses the Obama administration of assuming Congress was okay with the surveillance, simply because it didn’t object. But much of Congress never had an opportunity to debate the program, Sensenbrenner argues:
Defendants’ only evidence supporting implied ratification is the assertion that a 5-page report was made available for Members of Congress to read in a secure location for a limited period of time in both 2009 and 2011, when Congress was considering whether to reauthorize Section 215 as a whole. … However, the 5-page report was
only a brief summary, sorely lacking in detail, with only one sentence that hinted at the breadth of the program. Moreover, the report was not made available to House Members in 2011. … Nor were Members of Congress given access to any of the FISC orders approving of the bulk collection of call data. Even if mere notice were enough, it would have to be actual notice. Defendants make no attempt to demonstrate that all, or even most, Members of Congress had actual notice that the government was engaging in the bulk acquisition of the telephone records of Americans.
The two briefs join a third, filed last week, by two former members of the famous Church Committee that investigated the government’s use of intelligence assets against U.S. citizens in the 1970s….”
EFF Lawsuit re: abuses of privacy — NSA
“In a major victory in one of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.
In a court filing, the Justice Department, responding to a judge’s order, said that they would make public a host of material that will “total hundreds of pages” by next week, including:
[O]rders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive “significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency.”
While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit will finally lift the veil on the dubious legal underpinnings of NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program.
Several senators have warned that the DOJ is using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to support what government attorneys call a “sensitive collection program” that may be targeting large numbers of Americans. Section 215 allows for secret court orders to collect “tangible things” that could be relevant to a government investigation – a far lower threshold and more expansive reach than a warrant based on probable cause. The list of possible “tangible things” the government can obtain is seemingly limitless, and could include everything from driver’s license records to Internet browsing patterns. …”
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