Court allows ACLU to challenge government wiretapping

By Kase Wickman
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 14:13 EDT
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The American Civil Liberties Union was allowed Wednesday to move forward with their case against government wiretapping.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the court would not have to reconsider a case the ACLU brought against the government challenging the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which allows the government limitless access to citizens’ phone and email records with a focus on international contact (FISA stands for “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”). The 2008 passage of the FAA retroactively legalized the wiretapping performed under 2001′s PATRIOT Act, passed by President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The FAA also broadly expanded the government’s powers in electronic and physical searches, eliminating the need for a warrant or suspected crime.

In March, the Second Circuit ruled unanimously that the ACLU had the right to challenge to constitutionality of the FAA. The government asked for a retrial, and the court came to the same decision today, that the ACLU does not have to prove that it was wiretapped to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer celebrated the court’s decision in a prepared statement.

“The government’s surveillance practices should not be immune from judicial review, and this decision ensures that they won’t be,” he said. “The law we’ve challenged permits the government to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications, and it has none of the safeguards that the Constitution requires. Now that the appeals court has reaffirmed that our clients have the right to challenge the law, we look forward to pressing that challenge in the trial court.”

The ACLU filed their lawsuit against FAA in 2008, shortly after the law was signed by Bush.

President Barack Obama, sitting as a senator for Illinois at the time of the law’s passage, initially promised to filibuster the bill, but eventually voted in favor of legalizing the government’s wiretapping and search powers.

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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