Appeals Court Reinstates Lawsuit Against Federal Wiretapping
At issue is a 2008 federal law known as the FISA Amendments Act, which empowered the U.S. government to conduct widespread electronic surveillance on suspected terrorists. The ACLU's challenge had been previously thrown out by a district court judge in Manhattan, who claimed that the plaintiffs had failed to provide evidence that their own e-mails and phone calls had been under surveillance.
On Monday, however, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's ruling, declaring that the plaintiffs "have established that they reasonably fear being monitored under the allegedly unconstitutional (law), and that they have undertaken costly measures to avoid it." A lower court will now review the merits of the case. The Justice Department could still seek a re-hearing in the Second Circuit, in order to prevent the case from entering a district court, but it's unclear whether or not it will do so.
The plaintiffs, which include the ACLU, Amnesty International and other advocacy groups, welcomed Monday's decision. "Americans shouldn't have to accept as a fact of life that the government may be monitoring their international e-mails and phone calls and they can do nothing about it," the ACLU said in a statement.
Speaking to the New York Times, ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer reiterated the strength of his organization's legal case. "I have always thought that we had a very strong argument," Jaffer said. "The new law allows the government to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans' communication, and it makes the fourth amendment altogether irrelevant."