There’s a sentiment that the proper place to fight the State’s illegal activities is in the courtroom. Sometimes this strategy seems to play out but more often than not if one court rules against the State’s power another court will reverse the decision. In this way the court system acts as a redundancy for the State to preserve its power while maintaining the illusion the people hold the power. Take the National Security Agency’s (NSA) illegal domestic spying operating as an example. In 2013 its actions were ruled illegal by a court but after a lengthy appeal process a higher court has overruled that decision:
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned an injunction against the US government’s phone surveillance program. Today, the court handed down a decision in Klayman v. Obama, a lawsuit arguing that the NSA’s mass collection of phone records is unconstitutional. It found that there was not enough evidence that the lawsuit’s subjects were actually under surveillance, reversing a decision made in late 2013.
The court didn’t address whether the surveillance program was legal or constitutional. Instead, it concluded that the case’s subjects lacked standing to bring a complaint at all, because they were unable to demonstrate that they’d suffered harm. The secrecy of US surveillance programs has made it almost impossible to prove that a specific person or organization was subject to them, so Klayman and other recent cases have relied on leaked documents from Edward Snowden, particularly a court order requiring Verizon Business Services to hand over metadata on all its customers’ calls.
Isn’t it interesting how this court ruled that the plaintiff didn’t have a case because there wasn’t enough evidence to show they weren’t be spied on by a nationwide domestic surveillance apparatus? That’s a twist of logic if ever one existed. Let this be another lesson though. The state protects itself even against itself.