There exist known methods of surveilling people within their homes and elsewhere and even harassing them there that provide complete anonymity for the surveillor/harasser. If those means afford such a degree of insulation for the surveillor/harasser that no defendant can ever be identified or proven, can a harassee take the matter of those harassments to a civil court so as to seek a judgement of that surveillance/harassment being illegal and doing harm as a simple matter of law?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pat W.
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 15:03
  • Thank you, Pat W. That is far better than a deletion. Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 15:46
  • Not for me. I'm still banned from chat. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:56
  • Pat W., please allow 'You're bad' to post in the chat you set up. Although he shows signs of being an intentional antagonist and 'player', he at least has been the only individual willing to discuss the issue, and the "goody mob's" techniques (signs) ALWAYS leave a measure of doubt as to their intentions (befitting the CIA). Even an antagonist (including a bona-fide 'goody mobster') can be useful sometimes. And I'm not afraid to confront ANYONE over the issues, including 'goody mobsters'. If he will deal with the issue rationally, even if a skeptic, then I'd like to continue our chat there. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 1:37
  • Why is no one asking any questions? It seems the subject is the ultimate conversation stopper. Please ASK. I can give you substantive answers that actually make SENSE. PLEASE ask. ANYONE. It's such a huge subject and I've only scratched the surface here. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 1:53

4 Answers 4


Laws are different around the world and you didn't bother to state your location, but typically no- this is not how the system works.

What would be the point? There's no defendant. You, the plaintiff would argue against thin air and then what? The court rules in your favour, declares this illegal, and nothing happens because there's no defendant.

Is it so you can use this ruling if you find out later? Pretty sneaky. Let's look into how this would actually work.

You bring up a case- Jackson vs a mannequin or something. You make your arguments. The defense makes literally no defense. The judge rules in your favour, with a result of nothing as there is no defendent.

Next, you find the culprit and bring a case against them. You point out that this is illegal because we came to that decision last week. What's that defendant? An argument against it being illegal? Too bad, the decision has been made.

When I posted this answer, it was before the "Nyah, I was ranting about government spying but was deliberately vague- aren't I clever?" comment and I assumed it was against, say, a neighbour but it doesn't really matter. You cannot have a system that makes a judgement without a defendant so it can be applied later.

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    – feetwet
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 20:35

In the United States federal courts, the answer is no. The U.S. Constitution limits their jurisdiction to "cases or controversies," which requires adverse parties. It also requires a plaintiff who has standing, which requires that the court's resolution of the case will provide some relief for that injury.

The case you're describing fails on both points. First, as you noted, there is no defendant adverse to the plaintiff. Second, there's no indication that the action you're talking about would change the amount of surveillance the plaintiff is being subjected to.

  • The situation is like fighting a mob boss who knows how to insulate himself by working through others and how to use clever language to issue orders and communications (i.e. "Get him a pair of concrete shoes, Vinny.") But the mob I'm referring to is orders of magnitude beyond the traditional mob in capability and method. And yes, you're quite right, there is no reason to believe it will ever change. Just hope you never feel its bite. If Justice Cavanaugh were subjected to it, he'd probably be in an institution by now and not on the Supreme Court. Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 14:41

To see why this wouldn’t work, let’s take a slightly different example. Suppose you have something stolen from you, but you can’t identify the thief. Suppose also, in this jurisdiction, for whatever reason, there is some ambiguity about the legality of theft (perhaps due to the nature of the thing that was stolen). Even if it would be interesting, important, and useful to resolve the ambiguity:

  1. If the ambiguity would be resolved in the direction that there was no law against the particular form of theft, then you would be out of luck regardless, and should go to the legislature first to petition for a revision of the laws.

  2. If the ambiguity would be resolved in the direction that the theft was in fact illegal, there would be nothing for the court to do, since the court lacks both control over and access to the thief and the stolen property. You would be out of luck regardless, and should go to law enforcement or private investigators to catch the thief and locate the stolen property first.

Courts have such a big caseload of urgent problems generally that it is a more or less ironclad rule that you can’t bring hypothetical questions or questions where the court cannot actually remedy the injustice (for reasons of jurisdictional or physical impossibility). You have to have an actual live issue and make a showing that the court could actually provide redress of grievances. No one’s putting murder, rape, and domestic violence cases on pause for days so the court can spend a few days in the ivory tower musing on a purely academic (“moot”) question.

With regards to being surveilled/harassed: you would either have to catch the surveillor/harasser in the act (if it was illegal) or first change the law to ban these types of surveillance/harassment (if it was technically legal). If you don’t know who’s surveilling/harassing you, and the court doesn’t either, what do you expect the court to do? Even if they agree with your theory of the case, they can’t enforce anything against an unknown, much less a potentially unknowable, malefactor.

  • Thank you for that, Rivers. As far as theft goes, three appliances were stolen from my apartment and the door left wide open, noticed when I got home from work. I obtained a police report. Two days later, my neighbor found those appliances neatly stacked outside my front door. No legal justification was ever given to me. No warrant. No nothing. I submitted that report as an exhibit among others in my FOIA case against the FBI and CIA. The civil court judge ignored it and promptly awarded the defendants' motion to dismiss. Later, my gun that I never fired was stolen too. Same story. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 22:22
  • @tedjackson The organizations you mention, because of their high profile and at times undeniably shadowy and suspect operations, are very frequent targets of litigation as a result. Much of this litigation is valuable in safeguarding civil rights, but some of it is frivolous or crackpot, and because these organizations have strong relationships with the judicial branch they will frequently succeed in moving to dismiss on such grounds as they enjoy the presumption of good faith. Bring absolutely ironclad evidence next time. If this is happening to you, it can and should be recorded and tracked. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 22:40
  • They are expert at avoiding 'ironclad' evidence. How does one even begin to prove that an anonymous means to 'bee sting', surveill and otherwise harass is being used at all? They've gone to great lengths through many decades to inculcate the public with the notion that complaints are crazy talk. The best that a TI can do, if he/she is fortunate to have a heaping helping of creative and advertising media mockery to refer to like I do (most unusual for a TI) is to build a circumstantial case of their dilute, obscured junkola particularly with the partial name-dropping included in some of it. Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 0:27
  • I did precisely that in my FOIA case and the judge simply made no comment about any of it. Would it have been possible to request a jury to examine and weigh the arguments and exhibits instead of just the judge who might have been pre-prejudiced by the defendants themselves, a jury at least being sworn to do their constitutional duty and work impartially? I didn't do so, because I could only afford a pro-se case and knew I wasn't versed enough in courtroom law to go about it competently. Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 0:32

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 50 USC 1803–1805 provides the legal framework for such surveillance by the federal government. The Attorney General can declare an emergency, apply for a warrant but not have to wait for the warrant to be issued. They apply to the FISA Court, which is a special court, and generally warrants are granted (nearly 20,000 granted, less than a dozen rejected). This is a secret court, so any information available probably will not be released, or will be heavily redacted. Congressional authority for secret courts stems from 50 USC 1803(c), where court rules can be set up to protect the security of records held by FISC. Here is one ruling (against petitioner, alleged to be Yahoo). The NY Times famously published a report indicating that the courts have secretly ruled, in classified rulings (ergo secret law), that the "special needs" doctrine has been expanded and that "collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment". This pertains to a mass surveillance program carried out by the NSA.

Theoretically, you could sue various governmental agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA, TFI, MIB...) demanding under FOI that they provide records. You make a direct request to the agency; if you are not satisfied with the result, you file a lawsuit in federal court in your district. This paper may be helpful, assuming you are going pro se. You may also want to review this chapter, which pertains to declassifying information, since the agency response might be "that's classified". The bottom line is that if the information you seek has been deemed classified, then your only recourse is declassification review; if they deny having any record and you can provide no proof of such a record, your suit will be dismissed. Unlike FOI where you can ask for "any and all", you have to specify a document for declassification under MDR review.

Surveillance by other levels of government (state police, county sheriff, school district) is less likely to be immunized from review since they don't deal in national security issues. Surveillance by Facebook or your local grocery store or TV station could be revealed if you allege harm by one of these parties and sue them, in which case as part of discovery you could demand production of their surveillance of you. They may petition for summary dismissal, so your petition needs to be specific enough to survive their counter-motion.

You have to name a respondent. The standard solution is to name all possible respondents.

  • I've always remained peaceful and calm despite numerous clever efforts to goad me to anger. I, like most targeted individuals, don't have a war chest to pay lawyers' exorbitant bills. I've never been formally accused of anything, since there is really nothing to accuse me of, so no lawyer can possibly come forth to work pro bono or in the expectation of a share of awarded damages with no clearly identifiable defendant. So, like for most TIs, once again it's a no-win situation. Like I said, I sued under the FOIA pro se and the likely defendants evidently lied because they could lie. Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 23:50
  • @TedJackson So get a law degree and do it yourself. Youtuber LegalEagle is already doing something similar (though he was a lawyer long before deciding to sue the government). Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:55
  • I'm an engineer. That's what I love. Going for a law degree would be an exercise in a hell of boredom. Cheryl Welsh undertook that route though and got a law degree I heard from other TIs. The SciFi channel even produced some cartoon news about her. A little overdramatized, but it's a fairly good look at the life of a TI. Haven't heard from her in a long time. youtube.com/watch?v=bWcsNpwmjsk Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 16:45
  • And yea, as pictured, 'they' do have means of causing malfunction and non-function of appliances. Can cause frozen frames at suggestive moments on the cable dial, tap and bump sounds that function like 'bee stings' (marking moments of spoken or thought dialog or anything that can be construed as symbolic), numerous ways to manipulate human physiology from endless sleepless nights to loss of excretory control to making the arms go limp and lifeless for a moment while driving. I'm sure they have many ways to kill that all would assume were of natural causes - physiological and situational. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 16:54
  • If anyone wants to learn much more about me and my case, I've been writing essays for three decades at my website. afafa.org and at FaceBook facebook.com/TJackson112 Check out this media gaming. Watch as the symbolic weed sharer pays the ultimate price: afafa.org/Unlinked/StarTrek_Implant.mp4 Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 17:03

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