A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including regional al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki. The suit was filed by al-Awlaki's father the mother of al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said that U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Collyer ruled that the defendants, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, then-CIA Director David Petraeus and two special forces commanders, "cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war."
The federal government loses its control of land that's granted to railroad companies after the track has been abandoned, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court sided with a private landowner in Wyoming who is fighting efforts to convert disused tracks into a bike path near his house.
Holding: When a railroad abandons the right of way granted under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, the private party who acquired the land underlying the right of way obtains full rights over the right of way, which was an easement terminated by the railroad's abandonment. read more
A federal judge has struck down Texas' ban on same-sex marriage, ruling Wednesday it has no "rational relation to a legitimate government purpose." Judge Orlando Garcia, based in San Antonio, stayed enforcement of his decision pending appeal, meaning homosexual couples in Texas for the time being cannot get married. "One of the court's main responsibilities is to ensure that individuals are treated equally under the law. Equal treatment of all individuals under the law is not merely an aspiration it is a constitutional mandate," said Garcia.
An Intelligence Squared debate pits the ACLU's Ben Wizner and Daniel Ellsberg vs. former CIA Director James Woolsey and Andrew McCarthy: "Has Edward Snowden done the U.S. a great service? There is no doubt that his release of highly classified stolen documents has sparked an important public debate, even forcing what could be a major presidential overhaul of the NSA's surveillance programs. But have his actions -- which include the downloading of an estimated 1.7 million files -- tipped off our enemies and endangered national security? Is Snowden a whistleblower, or is he a criminal?" read more
We learned last week that the court -- and to my eye quite unsurprisingly -- had granted the Department of Justice's request to tweak minimization procedures applicable to the 215 program, among other things by having the FISC pre-approve the NSA's determinations of "reasonable and articulable suspicion" ("RAS"). That's the standard required, in order for the NSA to query the trove of metadata it has received from various companies subject to 215 orders. And the decision to seek advance FISC sign-off before querying was, of course, one of several policy shifts announced in the President's speech last month on intelligence matters. read more