Category Archives: US Law

My Lai (49 years ago today)

by Travis Normand
March 16, 2017

On this day in 1968 (March 16), Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson turned his helicopter’s guns on fellow U.S. troops in order to stop the My Lai Massacre.

I truly believe that one cannot fully understand or implement the LOAC without also having a firm grasp on history. For this reason, I recommend using (at the very least) the following links to familiarize yourself with what has been labeled the “My Lai Massacre.”

US v. Sterling – Testimonial Privilege

by Travis Normand

United States v. Jeffrey Sterling, . . . (4th Cir. 2013).

In its prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee accused of divulging classified information about the agency’s efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the government subpoenaed James Risen.  Risen, a reporter for the New York Times, published stories that were apparently based on information fed to him by Mr. Sterling.  Risen essentially argued that he could refuse to testify and that he was protected by some form of reporter’s privilege.  However, in a 2-to-1 opinion released July 19, 2013, the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that Risen could not refuse to testify and that there is no First Amendment or federal common-law privilege protection available to him as a reporter.

The dissent listed many state law testimonial privileges that apply to reporters.

See the entire opinion HERE.

“Sen. Paul proposes bill protecting Americans from drone surveillance” but is it Necessary?

by Jessica Poarch

This morning The Hill reported that on Tuesday Senator Paul introduced a bill that would require the Government to obtain a warrant before using Drones to conduct surveillance. This bill, entitled ‘‘Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012,’’ prohibits the government from using drones to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant that satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment….” (Sec 3) There are some exceptions to this requirement, mainly that a warrant is not needed for boarder surveillance, if there are exigent circumstances, or if there is a high risk of a terrorist attack based on “credible intelligence.” (Sec 4). If the Government fails to comply with this requirement, the evidence obtained can not be used in Court. (Sec 6).

In my opinion, this bill should be put in a pile with the rest of the election seasons ploys to play on the Nations sensitivities and garner votes. First, unless Drones are equipped with advanced x-ray and audio technology, this bill is a misapplication of the 4th Amendment. The 4th Amendment only applies to unwarranted government intrusion into a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  Activity undertaken in the open (i.e. visible from the air) does not receive protection. This would be no different than law enforcement officials sitting across the street with a high powered camera.

If Drone technology has advanced far enough to allow law enforcement officials to take x-ray images of the inside of buildings or record conversations that occur in buildings, then the 4th Amendment likely already provides protection as this case would be closely analogousness to currently controlling case law (ex: Katz, 389 U.S. 347 , providing 4th Amendment protection to a conversation in a public phone booth because Katz closed the phone booth door clearly intending to have a private conversation).

I too have concerns over allowing law enforcement officials to use Drones for ordinary crime control; however, a bill such as the one discussed above does not, in my opinion, provide any additional protection or truly address any privacy concerns. If Congress is truly concerned about law enforcement overstepping its bonds with the use of Drone technology it should find a more effective means to prevent it, such as tightening its purse strings and restricting the financial resources available for this form of surveillance.

The full Article:

The Bill: