December 2013 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of December 2013.
Student Opens Fire in Suburban Denver High School (Dec. 13): Seeking revenge against a faculty member, Karl Halverson Pierson opens fire inside Arapahoe High School in Centennial, a suburb of Denver. Pierson, age 18, shoots one student, Claire Davis, at point-blank range before taking his own life. Davis is currently in critical condition and stable, but in a coma.
First Ruling Is Made Against NSA Surveillance Program (Dec. 16): The first ruling against the NSA's surveillance program is handed down by Judge Richard Leon of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. He says the program is "significantly likely" to violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches. The case is brought by a group led by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval," says Leon. The government has relied on the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland to justify its spying program. The ruling says police can capture information about phone numbers a suspect called without a warrant because suspects cannot expect to keep such information private when using a service of a third party. Leon says that given the changes in technology, the Smith ruling no longer applies to current circumstances. (Dec. 18): Just days after the ruling, an advisory panel commissioned by President Obama releases a 300-page report that recommends 46 changes to the NSA's surveillance program. The recommendations include: handing authority of metadata gleaned from surveillance to a third party, such as a telecommunications company or a private group; requiring that NSA analysts obtain a court order before accessing the data; banning the government from using "back door" methods to gain access to hardware or software; and that an advocate should argue in favor of civil liberties in cases that come before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Currently, these cases are heard in private and only the government presents a case. The report also says the NSA's surveillance program has not been "essential to preventing attacks."