More Evidence in Sotomayor's Favor


Here is another piece of evidence that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor might be appropriately skeptical of curtailing civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor expressed skepticism in March 2003 about the expanded government surveillance powers in the USA Patriot Act, citing what she referred to as its broader authority "to impose nationwide wiretaps with little judicial supervision" and to monitor Internet use in search of terrorists.

"Whether and how these statutes will be challenged in court is difficult to discern, but suffice it to say that traditional Fourth Amendment law does not permit searches and seizures without particularized suspicions of illegality," Judge Sotomayor told law students in a guest lecture at the Indiana University law school in Indianapolis six years ago.

The government's surveillance powers have been expanded further since then, with the support of Barack Obama. Today The New York Times reports that the National Security Agency has been abusing those new powers, collecting what may amount to millions of email messages it was not authorized to peruse. The Times says overenthusiastic email collection also was at the heart of the hitherto mysterious 2004 dispute that had Deputy Attorney General James Comey racing White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to the hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who sided with Comey in refusing to sign off on a renewal of the NSA's secret surveillance program.

As Damon Root noted last week, Sotomayor also was on the right side in a 2008 ruling that upheld a First Amendment challenge to the PATRIOT Act's gag orders for national security letters, and she was tough on the government's lawyer in a case involving Maher Arar, a Canadian shipped off to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured, based on erroneous information suggesting he had ties to Al Qaeda. The 2nd Circuit has not ruled yet on whether Arar's lawsuit can continue, but Sotomayor indicated that she is skeptical of the government's claim that the case has to be thrown out to protect national security, saying, "So the minute the executive raises the specter of foreign policy, it is the government's position that that is a license to torture?"