Appeals Court OKs Challenge to Warrantless Electronic Spying

A legal challenge questioning the constitutionality of a federal law authorizing warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans inched a step closer Wednesday toward resolution.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time rejected the Obama administration’s contention that it should toss a lawsuit challenging the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act. Among other things, the government said the plaintiffs — Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and others — don’t have standing to bring a constitutional challenge because they cannot demonstrate that they were subject to the eavesdropping or suffered hardships because of it.

The lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, was lodged within hours of the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf) being signed into law by President George W. Bush in July 2008. The legislation is being challenged because it allows the National Security Agency to electronically eavesdrop on Americans without a probable-cause warrant if one of the parties to the communication resides outside the United States and is suspected of a link to terrorism.

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