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.
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The United States has formally dropped criminal charges against former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. military raid in Pakistan last month.
In federal court in Manhattan on Friday, prosecutors disposed of a 1998 indictment that charged bin Laden with murder and conspiracy to kill Americans for his role in attacking U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. The indictment also alleged that bin Laden tried to attack U.S. defense assets.
The bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people.
A raid by U.S. special operations forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.