The National Security Agency (NSA) logo is shown on a computer screen inside the Threat Operations Center at the NSA in Fort Meade, Maryland, January 25, 2006.
A US federal appeals court on Friday rejected a legal challenge to the US government’s domestic eavesdropping program, launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.The ruling allowed President George W. Bush’s administration to continue its controversial program of wartime spying on communications between US and foreign locations in suspected terror cases without first seeking a warrant.
Striking down a lower court’s order, the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, said the plaintiffs should not have won an injunction against the National Security Agency’s surveillance program because they failed to show that they were personally affected by it.
The two judges deciding against the plaintiffs did not rule, however, on the legality of the controversial program, known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.
“Because we cannot find that any of the plaintiffs have standing for any of their claims, we must vacate the district court’s order and remand for dismissal of the entire action,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder.
Ann Beeson, the American Civil Liberties Unionâ€™s associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs challenging the governmentâ€™s wiretapping policy, addresses the media in Detroit, in this June 12, 2006, file photo. A federal judge ruled Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006 that the governmentâ€™s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agencyâ€™s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.
Everyone agreed the plaintiffs had no standing and could not proceed with this injunction. But this did not deter the left wing judge, Anna Diggs Taylor from Detroit from making an absurd ruling.
But, then again, we knew the US Court of Appeals would reverse her.
Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor
The surveillance program permitted the security agency to intercept e-mails and telephone conversations between the United States and terror suspects abroad.
“We have to have a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of Al-Qaeda, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda, or working in support of Al-Qaeda,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said of the program in 2005.
But in August 2006, a district court judge in Detroit, Michigan imposed an injunction against the program, arguing that Bush had overstepped his authority. Her ruling was suspended while it was under appeal.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the ruling, saying it protected “a vital intelligence program that helped detect and prevent terrorist attacks,” according to spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
Lawyers, journalists and professors represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had argued that their communications risked being eavesdropped on because they were in frequent contact with people in the Middle East.
However, Friday’s ruling noted that “the plaintiffs do not allege as injury that they … anticipate or fear any form of direct reprisal by the government, such as criminal prosecution, deportation, administrative inquiry, civil litigation, or even public exposure.”
In addition, the plaintiffs were unable to prove that any of them had “actually been wiretapped,” and any declaration of injury was therefore “too speculative,” the ruling said.
The plaintiffs “allege only a subjective apprehension and a personal (self-imposed) unwillingness to communicate.”
But, this court ruling puts a damper on those subpoenas issued by the Democrat Congress to Vice President Dick Cheney over this very program.
SCOTUSBlog: Circuit Court bars challenge to NSA spying
Captainâ€™s Quarters: Court Reverses Anna Diggs Taylor
Powerline: Reversal in the NSA surveillance case