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A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated a closely watched lawsuit accusing the federal government of working with the nation’s largest telecommunication companies to illegally funnel Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without court warrants.
While the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the long-running case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the three-judge panel unanimously refused to rule on the merits of the case, or whether it was true the United States breached the public’s Fourth Amendment rights by undertaking an ongoing dragnet surveillance program the EFF said commenced under the Bush administration following 9/11.
Writing for the majority on Thursday, Judge Margaret McKeown ruled (.pdf) that the EFF’s claims “are not abstract, generalized grievances and instead meet the constitutional standing requirement of concrete injury. Although there has been considerable debate and legislative activity surrounding the surveillance program, the claims do not raise a political question nor are they inappropriate for judicial resolution.”
The appeals court sided with an act of Congress from July 2008, one voted for by then-Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, and then signed by President George W. Bush. The legislation handed the telcos retroactive immunity from being sued for allegedly participating in the surveillance program.
That led Judge Walker to toss the case against AT&T and others. The EFF contended on appeal that the legislation, which grants the president the power to grant immunity to the telcos, was an unlawful abuse of power.
By passing the retroactive immunity for the telecoms’ complicity in the warrantless wiretapping program, Congress abdicated its duty to the American people,” EFF senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl said. “It is disappointing that today’s decision endorsed the rights of telecommunications companies over those over their customers.”
That said, the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration, have neither admitted nor denied the spying allegations — though Bush did admit that the government warrantlessly listened in on some Americans’ overseas phone calls, which he said was legal. But as to widespread internet and phone dragnet surveillance of Americans, both administrations have declared the issue a state secret — one that would undermine national security if exposed.
Originally posted by Xcathdra
reply to post by brill
I had a slight glimmer of hope until I saw the 9th circus show of appeals is involved. They are the most overturned appeals circuit there is, and im sure this will go that way as well.