Warrantless Wiretap Suit Nixed by 9th Circuit
(CN) - A law firm and its clients lack standing to challenge the National Security Agency's now-defunct warrantless wiretapping program, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The court issued a three-page order upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and four clients, some of whom are Muslim foreign nationals detained after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The law firm and its clients said they were illegally spied upon by the government's warrantless surveillance program, called the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which ended in 2007.
The Patriot Act, passed in 2001 and reauthorized in 2006, amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to create a warrantless surveillance program of U.S. citizens from libraries and Internet service providers.
Under Section 702, which President George W. Bush added with passage of the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, the government legalized that program and gave the government virtually unchecked authority to listen to the international phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens.
The three-judge panel cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling this February in Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l, which held that plaintiffs in a similar warrantless wiretapping challenge lacked standing because they had "no actual knowledge of the government's ... targeting practice."
The 9th Circuit said the same is true for the Center for Constitutional Rights, although the firm "might have a slightly stronger basis for fearing interception" because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was not involved.
"CCR's asserted injury relies on a different uncertainty not present in Amnesty Int'l, namely, that the government retained 'records' from any past surveillance it conducted under the now-defunct TSP," the panel wrote.
"In sum, CCR's claim of injury is largely factually indistinguishable from, and at least as speculative as, the claim rejected in Amnesty Int'l."