Supreme Court rejects domestic wiretap appeal


Anne Broache
CNet News Blog
February 19, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in an appeal of a lawsuit accusing the National Security Agency of illicit spying on millions of Americans communicating with foreigners.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit in 2006 on behalf of journalists, scholars, criminal defense attorneys and Islamic-Americans, had sought review of a 2-1 decision last summer by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to throw out its case.

The ACLU obtained a victory at the trial court level in August 2006. A federal judge in Michigan ruled that the NSA’s once-secret terrorist surveillance program, which operated without court orders, “ran roughshod” over Americans’ constitutional rights Americans and violated federal wiretapping law.

But the Sixth Circuit overturned that ruling on narrow procedural grounds. It determined that the ACLU and the plaintiffs didn’t have legal standing to bring the suit in the first place because they hadn’t shown adequate evidence that they have been “personally” subject to the eavesdropping program. The judges did not, however, take a position whether the spying program itself was legal.

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