By Bill Mears
A federal appeals court panel has ruled the CIA must acknowledge the existence of any records related to military unmanned drone strikes aimed at people such as terror suspects overseas.
It called the agency's previous denials "fiction."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but the spy agency - citing national security - refused to confirm or deny it had any such records.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did not buy the argument, giving the outside groups a partial legal victory Friday.
"The CIA asked the courts to stretch that doctrine too far - to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible." FULL POST
By Bill Mears
David Nevin is an American private attorney defending accused 9/11 terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Human Rights Watch is an international group that has monitored the U.S. government's treatment of accused terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, including Mohammed.
Journalist/activists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges have written about the war on terror and have overseas sources as part of their jobs.
These key plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court on Monday to allow them to proceed with a lawsuit over the constitutionality of the federal government's sweeping electronic monitoring of targeted foreigners suspected of terrorism or spying. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
Col. Gregory Gross, the judge who will oversee the military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, ordered the Army psychiatrist to be forcibly shaved for his trial, according to Tyler Broadway, a spokesman at Fort Hood.
The order is likely to trigger an appeal that would further delay the case, which has dragged on now since 2009.
Hasan's attorney had filed an appeal when Gross threatened to order the shaving but the appeals court said it wouldn't issue a decision until the shaving was actually ordered. Thursday's order by Gross opens the door for that appeal.
The last time he was in court, Hasan told the judge, "Your honor, in the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim. I believe that my religion requires me to wear a beard."
Gross has said the beard violates Army regulations and Hasan is still an officer in the U.S. Army and subject to regulations.
Hasan's court-martial had been scheduled to start last month at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas, where he is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32.
His lawyers can now go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, an independent tribunal with worldwide jurisdiction over active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces and others subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The District of Columbia-based court is made up of five civilian judges appointed for 15-year terms by the president. Decisions of the court are subject to direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Such an appeals process could delay Hasan's criminal trial for months if not years.
CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report
By Bill Mears
A one-time American-based Islamic group cannot sue the government over claims it was targeted by the government's once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program, a federal court has ruled.
The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously tossed out a lawsuit by the now-closed Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The federal government had listed the Ashland, Oregon, chapter as a supporter of terrorism in 2004.
The group sued, saying its private overseas communications were unconstitutionally being monitored under the Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program. That spy program was unveiled in a 2005 New York Times article that said government officials were working with private telecom companies to secretly monitor telephone and e-mail traffic of targeted individuals and groups, both domestic and international.
Federal officials later publicly acknowledged the existence of the program, which was then officially authorized by Congress in 2008.
"This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs' ongoing attempts to hold the Executive Branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization," said the appeals court.
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
The Obama administration has begun limiting the legal rights of terror suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, telling a federal judge Tuesday the government alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their counsel.
In a 52-page filing, Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners can challenge their detention in a Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.
At issue is whether a Supreme Court decision on detainee rights from 2008 gives federal courts the ultimate power to control so-called "habeas" petitions from foreign combatants in U.S. military custody. Volunteer private lawyers say they deserve regular access to their imprisoned clients, even if there is no active habeas challenge pending in court, or any pending charges. FULL POST
By CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim military medals earned.
The 6-3 ruling was a free speech victory but perhaps in name only - for a onetime California public official who publicly lied about winning the prestigious Medal of Honor.
At issue is the constitutional value of false statements of fact, and whether Congress went too far when passing the Stolen Valor Act in 2006.
By Bill Mears
Appeals from seven detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, contesting their open-ended custody, were turned aside by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Without comment, the justices refused to take a fresh look at the "habeas" petitions by the suspected foreign enemy fighters and what rights they have to make their claims in federal court.
In the so-called Boumediene ruling in 2008, the high court said "enemy combatants" held overseas in U.S. military custody have a right to a "meaningful review" of their detention in the civilian legal justice system. It would force the government to present evidence and justify keeping the prisoners indefinitely, without charges.
But a federal appeals court in Washington has since refused to order the release of any detainee filing a habeas corpus writ, in some cases rejecting such orders from lower-court judges.
According to Pentagon figures, 169 foreign men are still at the Guantanamo facility, including five "high-value" suspected terrorists from the 9/11 attacks set to go on military trial.
By Bill Mears
CIA secret interrogation methods - including detention and harsh questioning of suspected terrorists - remain off limits to public release, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The agency was sued eight years ago to provide details of certain communications describing the use of waterboarding and other direct intelligence-gathering methods of foreign terror suspects. A three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "intelligence methods" are not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request from the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We give substantial weight to the government's declarations, which establish that disclosing the redacted portions of the (secret memos) would reveal the existence and scope of a highly classified, active intelligence activity," said the judges. FULL POST
By Bill Mears
The Supreme Court said Monday that it will tackle a major national security and privacy dispute involving the government's little-known foreign surveillance program.
The justices announced they would hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a coalition of "United States persons" - attorneys, journalists and labor, legal, media and human rights organizations.
Oral arguments will be heard this fall.
The larger issue involves the constitutionality of the federal government's electronic monitoring of targeted foreign people. A federal appeals court said the domestic plaintiffs who deal with overseas clients and co-workers reasonably feared the government was reading and hearing their sensitive communications, and those groups had taken costly measures to avoid such intrusions.
That New York-based three-judge panel last year ruled against the Obama administration proceeding.
The specific question now to be addressed by the high court is whether certain Americans have "standing" to challenge the federal law, without a specific showing they have been monitored. Plaintiffs say the National Security Agency has in turn refused to disclose specifics. The ACLU calls that "Catch-22" logic.
By Bill Mears
U.S. authorities are not required to release any internal National Security Agency communications it had with Internet giant Google Inc. after a 2010 cyber attack in China, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
At issue was a Freedom of Information Act request from a private group over the suspected collaborative relationship between the public and private entities. The NSA said disclosure of any communications - even with outside companies - would threaten government information systems.
The agency had given the Electronic Privacy Information Center a so-called "Glomar" response, in which the government refuses to confirm or deny the existence of any requested records. EPIC, a privacy and civil liberties group, made the FOIA submission weeks after the January 2010 cyberattack on Gmail accounts, primarily targeting Chinese human rights activists.
Google quickly changed its server encryption protocols following the digital attacks, and a top company official publicly stated its engineers were "also working with the relevant U.S. authorities."
A federal judge eventually sided with the NSA and Google, and the three-judge federal panel has now affirmed.
Read the whole story here.