The National Security Agency (NSA) logo is shown on a computer screen inside the Threat Operations Center at the NSA in Fort Meade, Maryland, January 25, 2006.
The United States Supreme Court earlier today let stand a United States Court of Appeals ruling that OK’d the Bush Administrations’s domestic warrantless surveillance program.
The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to civil rights and privacy advocates who oppose the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The justices, without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The action underscored the difficulty of mounting a challenge to the eavesdropping, which remains classified and was confirmed by President Bush only after a newspaper article revealed its existence.
“It’s very disturbing that the president’s actions will go unremarked upon by the court,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s national security project. “In our view, it shouldn’t be left to executive branch officials alone to determine the limits.”
The Terrorist Surveillance Program no longer exists, although the administration has maintained it was legal.
The ACLU sued on behalf of itself, other lawyers, reporters and scholars, arguing that the program was illegal and that they had been forced to alter how they communicate with foreigners who were likely to have been targets of the wiretapping.
A federal judge in Detroit largely agreed, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored and thus could not prove they had been harmed by the program.
Ann Beeson, the American Civil Liberties Union’s associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs challenging the government’s wiretapping policy, addresses the media in Detroit, in this June 12, 2006, file photo. A federal judge ruled Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006 that the government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency’s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.
And, remember the original story about a federal judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, issuing an injunction for the program (the injunction was stayed while the ruling was appealed.)
The Bush Administration announced in January 2007 that it would put intercepts of communications on U.S. soil under the oversight of that court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And. last August, Congress made temporary changes to FISA that made the warrantless wiretapping legal in some instances and also extended immunity from lawsuits to telecommunications companies that help with the intercepts.
This law expired over the weekend in the midst of a dispute between the Democrat controlled Congress and President Bush over allowing telecommunications companies to receive immunity from lawsuits for their cooperation with the government.
This lawsuit is over but the issue remains contentious. The United States Senate passed legislation reauthorizing the August law but Democrat leaders in the House have refused to bring up the law for a vote - pending a request for additional information.