Most Significant First Amendment Lawyer of Our Age Says Surveillance Disturbing, But Likely Legal

San Jose, CA (PRWEB) June 19, 2013

In a recent interview on The Costa Report, legendary First Amendment attorney, Floyd Abrams, compared defending Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case to whistleblowers Bradley Manning, who released classified material to Wikileaks, and Edward Snowden, the contractor responsible for making NSA surveillance information available to The Guardian.

According to Abrams, when it comes to surveillance, the Supreme Courts 1979 opinion (Source:, which by a 5-3 vote decided the public is not entitled to any expectation of privacy where phone records are concerned, will play a key role. The court based their decision on the fact that customers know that the telephone company possesses copies of their phone records, so the custody of these records resides with the telephone company, not the phone user. Abrams noted, The betting right now is that the courts would say in regards to telephone information such as who called who, what number called what number, at what time, and for how long – that (information) would seem to be unprotected.

Notwithstanding legality, Abrams expressed his concerns, I found the whole AP situation very disturbing from any sort of First Amendment perspective. And the situation with Fox reporter, James Rosen – because there, the administration sought a search warrant in the course of a leak investigation, but did so on the basis of representation to the court that a journalist was, in effect, a violator, a co-conspirator, a criminal, because the journalist had asked a lot of questions of someone with access to classified information and persuaded (the individual) to give information to him. . . (the government) went over the line by making journalism a crime.

With regards to Bradley Manning, Abrams claims the volume of information and recklessness with which Wikileaks released the documents largely differentiates this case from the Pentagon Papers. (Source: The Pentagon Papers by John T. Correll, published February 2007 The New York Times scrutinized and made the decision to hold back sections of the Pentagon Papers which could pose a security threat – despite the fact that most of the information was 3 years old and had no bearing on on-going operations. Abrams, who led Ellsbergs defense, also observed that Snowdens case may have been similar to Ellsberg had Snowden stopped after revealing government surveillance on American citizens. But, in recent days, Snowden has indicated that he will release documents which expose hacking and phone tapping performed by the NSA on the Chinese government. (Source: NSA hacks China, leaker Snowden claims CNN published June 13, 2013 by Jethro Mullen and Chelsea J. Carter Abrams said, Weve got an espionage act with two major provisions that bear on this: one is the misuse of classified information. And thats what Bradley Manning pled guilty to. Its hard to see how Snowden would not be liable. But the one that Manning is now being tried under has a potential death sentence, and that is: using classified information for the purpose of harming the U.S. And when you go to China for safety, and give them information about hacking, youre certainly putting yourself in line for much greater legal risk.

When host of The Costa Report, Rebecca Costa, asked Abrams whether surveillance activities, the IRS selective treatment of conservatives, the monitoring of AP and other reporters phone records, and the fact that Standard and Poors the only agency which downgraded the credit rating of the U.S. government had been singled out in a Federal law suit (a case Abrams is currently defending) paints a picture of government overreach, he replied I am so NON-conspiratorial…(but) the events of the past few weeks have vindicated all of the people who I once thought were paranoid.

To hear the full interview with Floyd Abrams on The Costa Report, visit

About Floyd Abrams

Floyd Abrams is a lawyer and partner at Cahill, Gordon and Reindel. Described by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “the most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age,” Abrams is top-ranked by Chambers USA and is listed in Whos Who Legal, Whos Who in American Law, and has been named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by The National Law Journal (2013.) Abrams is known for landmark legal cases such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Pentagon Papers, defending the New York Museum of Art, NPR, large tobacco companies, Al Franken against Fox News, and multiple suits wherein reporters were ordered to reveal confidential sources. He is the author of two books, Speaking Freely: Trials of The First Amendment and Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment.

About Rebecca D. Costa

Rebecca Costa is a sociobiologist who offers an evolutionary explanation for current events and emerging trends. A new voice in the mold of Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell, Costa attributes modern consternation – from terrorism, crime on Wall Street, epidemic obesity and upheaval in the Middle East – to genetic imperatives. Retiring from a career in Silicon Valley, Costa spent six years researching and writing The Watchmans Rattle. The success of the book in 25 countries led to a weekly syndicated radio program called The Costa Report. Costa is presently represented by the American Program Bureau and the Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

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