Thursday, January 19, 2006

Who Has Standing?

The ACLU has sued the federal government over the Bush Administration's secret wiretapping of American citizens. That kind of thing is, of course, why there is an ACLU. It's an organization that's meant to question any sort of government intrusion into the privacy of individuals.

But, this morning, the Wall Street Journal editorialized against the lawsuit and made a really hillarious argument: they say that the ACLU lacks "standing." To have standing in a legal case, the party bringing the suit needs to prove to the court that they've suffered some sort of harm caused by the actions of whoever they're suing. The notion keeps me, for example, from tying up the courts by suing the LAPD for beating Rodney King -- so far as the courts are concerned, that'd be King's issue to either sue or not sue over. Makes sense.

But, in this case, the Journal argues that the ACLU lacks standing because it can't prove that any of its members or co-plaintiffs have been wiretapped. That's a warped argument, of course. We know that the government has been wiretapping Americans because the government has admitted it. George Bush himself has not only admitted it, but has defended the practice. But these are secret wiretaps. We know they happened but we don't know who was tapped or why. We don't know who was tapped or why, by design, of course, since the taps were secret. So this standing argument is bogus -- it eliminates any possibility of a lawsuit from any American unless they can prove they were tapped and they would only know they were tapped if the government tappers told them which, of course, they wouldn't because that'd defeat the whole purpose of secretly wiretapping people.

Seems to me that when the government engages in a covert intelligence gathering operations of questionable legality that there's not an American alive who should lack standing. The issue at hand, after all, and an issue that we should be free to ask a court to decide, isn't so much whether the government wiretapped any one person but whether or not they should feel free to do so in the first place.


At 8:50 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

Another group that has standing is the Congress. Not to sue, of course, but to convene real hearings. (It's not clear to me yet whether there will be anything more than perfunctory, exculpatory exercises.)

If those hearings confirm what already seems to be the case--i.e, that there is at least credible evidence that Bush willfully broke the law--then there should be a special prosecutor to look into it. If nothing else, real investigations would make pretty obvious pretty fast who does have standing to sue under even the most narrowly construed notion of standing.

At 9:57 PM , Blogger Mike M. said...

Geez, Jon...

You're kind of asking members of congress to, you know, take risks!

If you take a risk, you might not be all re-elected and stuff.

Congress don't play dat.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home