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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ACLU Domestic Spying Lawsuit Rejected By Supreme Court

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit filed by ACLU, without comment, that wanted the court to allow a lawsuit by the group and individuals over the wiretapping program.

The justices' decision, said the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored, therefore the ACLU has no grounds to bring the case to court.

This is not the first time the high court has rejected this type of lawsuit because in 2006, an Islamic charity, Oregon-based U.S. arm of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bush administration had circumvented the US Constitution by authorizing warrantless wiretaps. They asserted that the President lacked the authority to authorize wiretaps that circumvented the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In that case it was the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled against the Islamic group.

The court issued a one line ruling today, which states:

Based on the evidence in the record, as applied in the foregoing analysis, none of the plaintiffs in the present case is able to establish standing for any of the asserted claims.

The Sixth Circuit decision in ACLU v. NSA is here (65 page PDF file).

The initial lawsuit faced several challenges from the beginning, first of which is they had no proof that the plaintiffs had their calls or emails intercepted.

Secondly, the ACLU was filing this lawsuit on behalf of some lawyers and journalists who had regular contact with people who were being investigated in terrorism-related cases.

After September 11, 2001, President Bush had signed a secret order to the National Security Agency (NSA) that authorized it to intercept phone calls or e-mails coming into or going out of this country if there was a "reasonable basis" to believe there was a link to Al Qaeda. More significantly, the NSA did not need the approval of the FISA court to conduct this spying, according to the order.

A judge in Detroit had ruled against the administration and ruled Bush's order unconstitutional, that ruling was was reversed last July by the U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati who threw out the lawsuit and ruled that these people did not have standing to sue.

The ACLU has issued an immediate press release in regards to todays ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to review a legal challenge to the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations who say that the unchecked surveillance program is disrupting their ability to communicate effectively with sources and clients. The court’s decision today lets stand an appeals court’s ruling on narrow grounds that plaintiffs could not show with certainty that they had been wiretapped by the National Security Agency.

They go on to quote Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jameel Jaffer and Legal Director of the ACLU, Steven R. Shapiro, both of which, obviously disagree with the Supreme Court ruling.

The ACLU consistently insists that programs such as the NSA wiretapping program goes against civil liberties and opposing opinions just as consistently insist that National Security depends on being able to monitor calls and contacts from the U.S. to terror groups outside the U.S to be able to protect America from further terrorist attacks.

The courts are caught in the middle and have to walk a fine line between civil liberties and protecting America because ruling against one may "step on" the other.