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The federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision reversing the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.
“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.
The case concerned a lower court decision in which two American attorneys — who were working with the now-defunct al-Haramain Islamic Foundation — were awarded more than $20,000 each in damages and their lawyers $2.5 million in legal fees after a tortured legal battle where they proved they were spied on without warrants.
“This case was the only chance to litigate and hold anybody accountable for the warrantless wiretapping program,” he said in a telephone interview. “As illegal as it was, it evaded accountability.”
The San Francisco-based appeals court ruled that when Congress wrote the law regulating eavesdropping on Americans and spies, it never waived sovereign immunity in the section prohibiting targeting Americans without warrants. That means Congress did not allow for aggrieved Americans to sue the government, even if their constitutional rights were violated by the United States breaching its own wiretapping laws.
The document was later declared a state secret, removed from the long-running lawsuit and has never been made public.
Originally posted by Maxmars
Given the emotional climate at the time, and the history preceding this case, there is little chance, in my opinion, that the state will ever relinquish the power it now has as a result of our hypersensitivity to the specter of "terrorism."
In time, "privacy" will probably have to be licensed, bonded, and applied for.