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Supreme Court hears ACLU case against government surveillance of Americans

The U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court.
Alex Brandon/AP

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling for amendments that would limit government surveillance to only suspected terrorists and criminals. The organization also wants the government to be more transparent about how the law is being used and to place more restrictions on the information that is gathered about innocent Americans.

The Supreme Court heard arguments today (Monday) on whether plaintiffs represented by the ACLU have the right to challenge the constitutionality of the law that authorizes the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct comprehensive surveillance of Americans’ emails and phone calls. The law that made the ACLU’s challenge possible is called the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose work requires them to engage in telephone and email conversations with people outside of the U.S. The Justice Department asserts they should not be able to sue without first showing that they have actually been monitored under the program, but it also claims that the government should not be required to reveal whether plaintiffs have been targeted.

Is this a case of the NSA over-stepping their boundaries? Should the U.S. be able to spy on their own citizens without a search warrant?




David Rivkin, Partner, Baker Hostetler law firm, Washington D.C., Previously at the Department of Justice among many other government counsel positions. Mr. Rivkin has filed Supreme Court and appellate amicus briefs in several leading post-September 11 National Security cases.

Laurie Asseo, Supreme Court reporter, Bloomberg News

Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney, ACLU of Southern california