Constitution Daily Update: Egypt in turmoil, more allegations of spying on Americans by Americans

The prospects for more violence in Egypt remain high; the Washington Post has new allegations of NSA security issues; the RNC is poised to ban NBC and CNN from its primary season.

Items To Watch

NSAlogocropped1. The Muslim Brotherhood plans huge protests after violence this week in Egypt left almost 600 people dead. The military ousted elected president Mohammed Morsi in July amid protests against Morsi and the Brotherhood. For now, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Court is acting president.

2. The Republican National Committee will vote today to ban NBC and CNN from its 2016 GOP primary debates, because both networks are planning shows about Hillary Clinton.

Developing Questions …

Here are some updates on new discussions about top-of-mind constitutional issues.

1. Can Stand Your Ground laws withstand a constitutional challenge?

Since mid-July when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin in 2012, a group of protesters called the Dream Defenders carried out a 31-day protest at the Florida Capitol, trying to persuade the state legislature to vote for Trayvon’s Law, which would, the Defenders’ website says, “repeal Stand Your Ground, confront racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.”

They ended their protest on Thursday, in exchange for a commitment from the Florida Speaker of the House that he will hold a hearing about the 2005 Stand Your Ground law in Florida.

Zimmerman was acquitted under it because the state could not prove that when he shot and killed Martin, Zimmerman was acting aggressively and not in self-defense. The state law defines self-defense very loosely: if someone thinks he is in danger from another person near-by, he can shoot to kill, even if the shooter initiated the confrontation.

The Florida statute says, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Twenty-one states have Stand Your Ground laws. Since Martin was killed, the laws have been criticized from across the legal and political spectrum, with some conservatives saying they can be misread as “license to kill” laws and some liberals saying that the laws justify racism because people who fear black men think it’s reasonable for them to believe they must use deadly force to protect themselves.

There has been a consistent debate about whether the laws are unconstitutional as violations of due process or constitutional as protectors of property rights.

The protest of the Dream Defenders, widely reported on around the country, seemed to raise no constitutional controversy: they peaceably assembled and expressed their viewpoint, and they ended their protest when the Florida House Speak asked them to.


It was on this day in 1955 that singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson lost a legal battle against the State Department, which had refused to grant him a passport because his views about the Soviet Union and his open criticism of discrimination in America. Robeson later prevailed in court.

Closing Notes

1. There are more allegations, this time in the Washington Post, that the NSA violated its own privacy rules to safeguard citizens’ personal data. Most of the infractions were about unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, involving emails and phone calls.

2. Would you like to speak your mind to your elected person in D.C.? Here’s a list of politicians conducting the most Town Halls around the country, from Roll Call.

Editor’s note: The Update is a summary of news and commentary about the Constitution and related issues, as reported around the digital world. Guest contributors and our editorial staff add to the daily update, and we welcome your suggestions (and reports) at [email protected].

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