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By Catholic Online

3/24/2011 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Telephone calls, Internet activity for Americans being closely watched

Former President George W. Bush's illegal warrantless surveillance program was never halted by Congress or by the Obama administration and was legalized in a 2008 law called the FISA Amendments Act. The surveillance of Americans' international phone calls and internet use - complete with secret rooms in AT&T data centers around the country is likely still ongoing.

The 'secret room' in AT&T's Folsom Street office in San Francisco is believed to be one of several internet wiretapping facilities at AT&T offices around the country feeding data

The "secret room" in AT&T's Folsom Street office in San Francisco is believed to be one of several internet wiretapping facilities at AT&T offices around the country feeding data

Highlights

By Catholic Online

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/24/2011 (4 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: National Suveillance Agency, privacy laws, surveillance


LOS ANGELES, CA  (Catholic Online) - A federal appeals court reinstated a key legal challenge to that surveillance: a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others within hours of the FISA Amendments Act being signed into law. The lawsuit attacks the constitutionality of the legislation, which allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans without a probable-cause warrant, so long as one of the parties to the communication resides outside the United States, and is suspected of a link to terrorism.

The decision has raised the ire of the ACLU, and other rights groups involved in the suit. "This is a really big victory," said ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Myers. "The ruling is that you don't have to prove you've been spied on to challenge an unlawful spy act."

A lower court had ruled the ACLU, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine; PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and other plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case, because they could not demonstrate that they were subject to the eavesdropping.

The groups appealed. They argued that that they often work with overseas dissidents who might be targets of the National Security Agency program. Instead of speaking with those people on the phone or through e-mails, the groups asserted that they have had to make expensive overseas trips in a bid to maintain attorney-client confidentiality.

The case will now return to the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl in New York, where the Obama administration will play its "trump card:" an assertion of the powerful State Secrets Privilege that lets the executive branch effectively kill lawsuits by claiming they threaten to expose national security secrets.

In a rare exception in 2008, a San Francisco federal judge refused to throw out a wiretapping lawsuit against AT&T under the State Secrets Privilege. The AT&T lawsuit was later dismissed, because the same FISA Amendments Act also granted the phone companies retroactive legal immunity for their participation in the NSA program. That immunity does not apply to the government.

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