Judge allows Bradley Manning supporter lawsuit to proceed

Support Network co-founder David House has standing on claims of First and Fourth Amendment violations

By the Bradley Manning Support Network. March 29, 2012.

David House (center) outside of the grand jury in Alexandria, VA, last June.

BOSTON — A federal judge ruled late last night that David House, a co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has sufficient standing to proceed in a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security. House argues that government agents violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when his electronic devices were unlawfully seized during the course of being questioned about his political beliefs at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in November 2010.

United States District Court Judge Denise Casper denied the government’s motions to dismiss the suit, finding that the fact that “the initial search and seizure occurred at the border does not strip House of his First Amendment rights, particularly given the allegations in the complaint that he was targeted specifically because of his association with the Support Network.”

“For the past decade, the two parties in Washington have weakened the ability for citizens to exercise their basic rights and liberties while on U.S. soil,” said David House in response to the decision. “This ruling is important not just for those of us in the Bradley Manning Support Network who have been targeted, but for any American who values their right to free speech. Americans should take heart in the judge’s reaffirmation that politically motivated searches and seizures present an intolerable restriction on our First Amendment freedoms.”

A copy of the ruling is available here.

As a friend of the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower, House helped to establish the Bradley Manning Support Network in June 2010. During the time he was detained at O’Hare airport, House was never accused of engaging in illegal behavior. As noted in the judge’s ruling:

“…the agents questioned House solely about his association with Manning, his work for the Support Network, whether he had any connections to WikiLeaks, and whether he had contact with anyone from WikiLeaks during his trip to Mexico.”

House’s laptop and other electronic devices, which contained internal communications among members of the Support Network, were seized and retained by the federal government for 49 days.

House is being provided with legal representation by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

“Despite the government’s broad assertions that it can take and search any laptop, diary or smartphone without any reasonable suspicion, the court said the government cannot use that power to target political speech,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, who argued the case along with John Reinstein of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

A copy of the ACLU statement can be found here.

Supporters are preparing for rallies and vigils in support of PFC Manning as he returns for pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade on April 24 and 25.


7 thoughts on “Judge allows Bradley Manning supporter lawsuit to proceed

  1. The judges decision is encouraging. Though, as so many are finding out, my own experiances included, our rights are upheld after the fact. The ability to levy a lawsuit certianly causes those with authority to rethink.

    Unfortunatly, immediate search and seizure will continue, as they will weigh the cost of legal retaliation in concideration of return on investment. They would rather be safe than sorry, they have no qualms with paying for the information they want. Lawsuits will not stop searh and seizure.

    Not only have they taken an image of the harddrive, standard operating procedure for computer forensics for searches, ultimatly intended for prosecution. But most probably have injected code to monitor activity and proliferate among contacts.

    Any time anyone has access to your computer, phone, any type of computing device, they have the opportunity to install eavsdropping software. I highly doubt, concidering the level of abuses already observed in the Bradly Manning case, that “they” would step away from installing eavesdropping programs.

    If the initial search and seisure is concidered illegal, is the injection of eavesdropping software illegal as well?

    Apparently that issue has not been approched at all by legal represenation or the judge. The reason the devices were returned was probably due to the hope, that the devices would be used as returned.

  2. Looks like the court said it’s perfectly ok for the government to have done what it did do… it just has to go faster next time.

    Eighteen hours instead of 7 weeks.

    Image all the data now, peruse and distribute it later, at their leisure.

    This is a pretty weak ‘victory’ for US Citizens mauled by an increasingly authoritative and brutish governmental regime.

    Yeah, we’ll take any victories we can get. But it is amazing that we are on our knees like this before our servants.

  3. Maybe there is hope for freedom in this land after all. Strength to Manning and all the others who are standing up for our rights and for transparency

  4. More and more the US government is becoming the enemy of “We, the People.” We “tolerate” the increasing outrage at our peril but the system inflicts itself upon us by means of the very resources with which we are forced to provide it. How sadly ironic it is that the ability to live a normal, non-institutionally-scrutinized-and-molested life should now be considered a “victory.” The US Control System now elevates FRAUDS and imprisons HEROES and many indications suggest that a far worse reality is to come.

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