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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judges Tosses Actions Over NSA Wiretapping

(CN) - A federal judge in San Francisco dismissed two class actions over the government's warrantless wiretap program, saying the alleged injuries were too generalized to support standing. The ruling did not address the government's claim that the cases were barred by the state-secrets privilege.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs - customers of telecommunications companies and individuals who say they were wiretapped - failed to show how they were specifically injured by the eavesdropping.

"[T]he harm alleged is a generalized grievance shared in equally substantial measure by all or a large class of citizens," U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker wrote.

He quoted the D.C. Circuit's ruling in Seegers v. Gonzales, which held that "injuries that are shared and generalized ... are not sufficient to support standing."

"The various other grounds advanced by the United States are not ruled on herein and form no part of the basis for this order," Walker wrote.

The lawsuits followed media reports, beginning in December 2005, that the National Security had been eavesdropping on people's emails and telephone calls without warrants.

The government argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction, because Congress has not waived sovereign immunity, and that the information needed to litigate the claims were protected state secrets.

Walker dismissed the class actions for lack of standing, saying concrete injury is required.

"This is especially true when, as here, the constitutional issues at stake in the litigation seek judicial involvement in the affairs of the executive branch and national security concerns appear to undergird the challenged actions," he wrote.

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