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Supreme Court Blocks Challenge On Controversial Surveillance Law

Salomon Fuentes |
February 26, 2013 | 2:32 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

The U.S. government will retain it's ability to monitor phone conversations (Creative Commons/byungkyupark)
The U.S. government will retain it's ability to monitor phone conversations (Creative Commons/byungkyupark)
By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that challenge to a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Suveillance Act (FISA) could not go forward.

The suit, Clapper v. Amnesty International, which was brought by Amenesty International and other civil rights groups, sought to overturn the federal government's ability to listen to international communications involving Americans.

From the New York Times, Judge Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opionion that:

"Journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates who challenged the constitutionality of the law could not show they had been harmed by it and so lacked standing to sue. Their fear that they would be subject to surveillance in the future was too speculative to establish standing."

The ruling was divided along political lines, with the court's conservatives, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Alito backing the 2008 privision to FISA, which was brought on after the Bush administration revealed in 2005 it had engaged in warrantless wiretapping as part of the War on Terror.

Civil rights groups were quick to condemn the ruling. The Christian Science Monitor reported:

"Peter Godwin, president of the PEN American Center, called the opinion “a Kafkaesque holding that puts writers, journalists, human rights workers on notice that the US government can look over their shoulders anywhere in the world and there is nothing they can do about it.”

“This ruling insulates the statute from meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case in October." 

The Obama administration defended the law in court, making it a rare instance where lawyers for the Justice Department backed the court's conservatives in their decision, though officially the Justice Department has not commented on the ruling.

Read the full New York Times story here.

Read the full Christian Science Monitor story here.

Reach Executive Producer Salomon Fuentes here; Follow him on Twitter here.



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