Digging the NSA Out of the Snowden Storm

The National Security Agency’s surveillance hasn’t changed. Washington has.

By Mike Pompeo and David B. Rivkin Jr.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks have subjected the NSA’s surveillance programs to unprecedented attack, raising the possibility that Congress will not be able to pass the 2014 Intelligence Authorization bill needed to provide congressional guidance on a host of crucial national-security issues. It would be lamentable if the entirely legal and invaluable NSA surveillance program became more of a political football than it already is.

Some proposals would hamstring the NSA’s ability to obtain, store and analyze information, while forcing disclosures of now-classified operations. Balancing the intelligence community’s need for secrecy with the public’s appetite for disclosure is always difficult in a democracy. But the NSA’s programs have from the start been tailored to balance constitutional requirements, statutory authorizations and operational needs. What’s different today is not how we collect intelligence, but the new and extreme legal and policy arguments against doing so.
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U.S. courts’ neutrality shines in Ecuadoran case

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman

For all the complaints about the American justice system — litigation is too expensive, too slow, too uncertain — it leads the world in the metric that matters most: uncovering the truth. That has been on particular display in a Manhattan courtroom.

On trial are crusading attorney Steven Donziger and his allies in a decades-long legal battle against the energy giant Chevron. Representing indigenous people in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region, Donziger obtained an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadoran court for pollution that he attributed to drilling operations by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.

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Is Obama trying to pack the DC appeals court?

By David B. Rivkin and Andrew M. Grossman
 

The D.C. Circuit is the nation’s top regulatory court, responsible for scrutinizing many of the federal government’s most expensive and far-reaching actions. No wonder, then, that President Barack Obama is now trying to push three new judges onto the court and tilt it decisively in his favor. A great deal is at stake here for the U.S. economy, and it is high time for the Senate to have its say.

For a president with an aggressive second-term regulatory agenda, the D.C. Circuit may be a greater impediment than the Supreme Court. By statute, the court hears all challenges to nationwide rules under the Clean Air Act, as well as many major challenges to regulations affecting water, labor relations, securities law, and other fields. It vets agencies’ compliance with constitutional requirements. More than a third of cases in the D.C. Circuit are administrative appeals, compared to 16 percent in other appeals courts. And because the Supreme Court takes so few cases each year, the D.C. Circuit’s word is typically the last when it comes to regulatory challenges.

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Default and the Constitution: David Rivkin debunks debt ceiling myths

David Rivkin was featured on “The Journal Editorial Report” with host Paul Gigot,  the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor.   The video debunks a number of  myths of the impending decisions on raising the debt ceiling.  Mr. Rivkin explains how the 14th Amendment ensures that defaulting on our debt is impossible. The Wall Street Journal’s “Journal Editorial Report” is Fox News Channel feature that runs at least twice during a weekend.

 

 

A Facebook Deal That Needs Unfriending

Time to end class-action settlements that only reward lawyers, not plaintiffs.
By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey 

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear a case that could determine the future of particularly abusive class-action settlements. Not abusive in the usual sense, where a class of injured plaintiffs is awarded an exorbitant amount. Instead, these settlements are abusive in that absolutely nothing goes to the injured plaintiffs. At issue is whether federal courts may approve such agreements rewarding lawyers and defendants, leaving plaintiffs out in the cold.

The case is Marek v. Lane, and it arose out of Facebook’s notorious 2007 “Beacon” program. Beacon gathered and published information about Facebook users’ other Internet activities as an advertising and marketing tool, invading the privacy of millions. It may also have violated a number of state and federal laws, including the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, which includes a liquidated-damages provision of $2,500 for each offense. A class-action suit was filed in 2008 on behalf of as many as 3.6 million injured social networkers.

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The True Lesson of the IRS Scandal

There should be less federal regulation of political speech.

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

President Obama and his political allies have dismissed as “phony scandals” mounting evidence that the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies hindered and punished conservative advocacy groups. Meanwhile, efforts are under way to impose even more regulation on core political speech.

The government’s abuses are very real, but the scandal’s lessons are not appreciated: The federal regulation of political speech has already gone further than can be justified by existing law, let alone the Constitution.

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