supreme court dismisses lawsuit challenging warrantless eavesdropping law

by Tim Phillips

After the enactment of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, people in the U.S. who communicated with likely targets of U.S. surveillance abroad – for example, activists who opposed governments supported by the U.S. – reasonably believed their communications with such individuals would be monitored. As a result, several people and organizations filed a lawsuit against the FISA law on the day it was enacted. According to Glenn Greenwald,

The plaintiffs in the case are US lawyers, journalists, academic researchers and human rights activists and groups (such as Amnesty) who work on issues of terrorism, foreign policy and human rights. They argued that they have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the eavesdropping law because its very existence impedes their work in numerous ways and makes it highly likely that their communications with their clients and sources will be targeted for interception…

Yesterday, however, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the plaintiffs challenging the FISA law don’t have standing to sue. The Court’s five right-wing justices agreed with the Obama justice department that the plaintiffs were simply guessing that their communications would be monitored, but had no proof. The four less-conservative justices, on the other hand, stated in dissent that government monitoring of the plaintiffs’ communications “is as likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordi­nary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.” As Greenwald explains, the future looks bleak for lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of eavesdropping laws:

With perfect Kafkaesque reasoning, the Obama DOJ says that (1) who we spy on is a total secret, and therefore (2) nobody has the right to obtain a judicial ruling as to whether what we are doing is legal or constitutional.

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