Court rejects ACLU suit on spying

A divided federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit Friday challenging President Bush’s domestic spying program without ruling on the issue of whether warrantless wiretapping is legal.

In a 2-1 decision with Republican-appointed judges in the majority, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because they couldn’t prove their communications had been monitored by the government.

The decision underscored the difficulty of challenging the anti-terrorism program in court because its secret nature prevents plaintiffs from obtaining surveillance information. The National Security Agency had refused to turn over information about the warrantless wiretapping that would have bolstered the court case.

“This is a Catch-22,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit. “I think what in effect they’re saying is that we can’t tell you whether you have been wiretapped because that’s a secret. And unless you know you’ve been wiretapped, you can’t challenge that program.”

The appeals court vacated a 2006 order by a lower court in Detroit, which had concluded that the warrantless surveillance authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was unconstitutional.

President Bush authorized warrantless monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mails to or from the United States when one party is believed to be a terrorist or to have terrorist ties. The government has kept details confidential, saying the case involved state secrets whose disclosure would threaten national security.

While sidestepping the question of constitutionality, Judge Alice M. Batchelder and Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue without proof they were monitored by the government.

“The plaintiffs are ultimately prevented from establishing standing because of the state secrets privilege,” Gibbons wrote.

Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, a Democratic appointee, disagreed, saying the plaintiffs were within their rights to sue and that it was clear the surveillance program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The government had said it sometimes needed to act without waiting for the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established by the 1978 law.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration said the eavesdropping program is now overseen by a special federal intelligence court, so the case was moot. But, by sidestepping the constitutionality of the surveillance program, the appeals court left open the possibility that Bush or another president could restart the program, and opponents contend that means the case remains relevant.

The appellate decision didn’t address the legality of the wiretapping program or absolve the administration of complying with a congressional subpoena seeking more information, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“There is a dark cloud over the White House’s warrantless wiretapping program, and a full response to the outstanding subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee by this Administration would be a good start to clearing the air,” Leahy said in a statement.

The Justice Department and the White House were pleased with the outcome.

“We have always believed that the District Court’s decision declaring the terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional was wrongly decided,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Department of Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the surveillance program was “a vital intelligence program that helped detect and prevent terrorist attacks. It was always subject to rigorous oversight and review.”

The ACLU pursued the lawsuit on behalf of other groups, including lawyers, journalists and scholars who asserted that the government monitoring prevented them from doing their jobs properly. The suit was filed in January 2006, a month after the program’s existence became known publicly.

Others have filed court challenges to the program, but none has gotten as far in the court system.

Shapiro said the ACLU is considering all its legal options, including asking for a full-court hearing in the 6th Circuit or asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider it. If the ACLU doesn’t pursue an appeal, the case would go back to the U.S. District Court in Michigan for dismissal.

A law professor who has closely followed the case thinks it will be dropped.

“The case is not moot because the government could continue the program at any time,” said Robert A. Sedler, a law professor at Wayne State University. “But because it’s not now in effect, the Supreme Court is not likely to hear it. It’s simply not an important case anymore.”


On the Net:

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals:


  1. gene

    What a disgusting photo, it looks like Cheny is using mental telepathy on Bush. Of course that would be impossible sense the space btween Bush’s ears is “empty”.

  2. bryan mcclellan

    Seal you are spot on, stopping the money train with a national strike for a week is absolutely the right move. Take a vacation at home,don’t drive and don’t buy anything made in China ever.Then maybe we will have gained a grip on their short hairs for a change .

  3. kent shaw

    Phillips Plasma. Check. Filed away in the brain bucket for later reference — like when I can afford to pay cash.

  4. SEAL

    Gene, it isn’t an HDTV. That is what I already had. What I bought is a Phillips Plasma 50+ inch screen. The plasma is so much better than HD you just have to see it to believe it. Especially, something like a football game.

    They are expensive though. I have an old military buddy in the business and he got it for me at cost. Otherwise, I doubt I would have bought it now and waited until the price of them goes down as it will in a year or two.

  5. SEAL

    Yanno Carl, I don’t know if I can agree with you on one thing. I just bought a new Plasma TV. The biggest damn screen I could find. With lighting in the back of it that changes with the picture. Did I need it? No. But the picture is so much better than a HD set you have to see it to believe it. It has depth almost like 3-D. It’s very life like instead of just a flat one dimension picture. And the graphics make the people and everything else look real. I wanted it – I bought it and I won’t apologize for it. It’s better, that’s why.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with buying a better computer or cell phone or TV or game system or car or whatever when they come out with them IF YOU CAN AFFORD THEM. What is wrong is buying them when you cannot afford them and driving yourself further in debt. The debt is the problem, not the “want’ for new toys. Everyone wants them. But I pay cash or I don’t get them. Consequently, I am in control of my life, not the bank. The debt people have created for themselves means they are no longer in control of their life. We have a whole nation of people like that. Controlled by the ruling class that owns everything through their corporations that are all inter-connected and have enslaved the nation through credit.

    If you want to start a revolution, just have everyone stop paying their bills and watch the corporations go belly up in a couple of months. It’s that flow of money that keeps them in power. Shut it off and you will break them and their power.

  6. SEAL

    This is the Bush legacy. Federal judges that will rule based upon politics and theocracy instead of law.

  7. Carl Nemo

    Things seem fairly hopeless…! Batman where are you when we need you…?! When I look at the photo supplied with this article, I see “The Penguin;ie.Cheney” and “The Joker;ie,Bush” teaming-up to terrorize the good citizens of Gotham City; ie, “we the people”…!

    The reason we are in this fix is that people everywhere are more enamoured with their toys; large screen TV’s, phones that are now virtually handheld pc’s, fancy homes that are doubly or trebly mortgaged, SUV’s, sports cars and a host of other titillating nonsense that won’t mean a tinkers damn once they lose their freedom for all time and all places. America is quite unfree as of now, it’s just that most folks don’t have a run-in with “the man” or the system regularly enough to know just how bad it has become. Supposedly 60 million Americans are on anti-depressants; i.e, Prozac, Welbutrin, Zoloft, and a host of these emotionally deadening drugs that turn them into passive, consumeristic feedlot animals. Instead they’ve been reduced to nothing but to passive “deer in the headlights” as the fifth wheel of “Tyranny” runs them down on the road to permanent NWO slavery!

    Bushco is spying on you without due FISA court process; collective response…moooah!

    Bushco is perpetuating a war based on false premises with the intention of stealing another nations oil reserves and establishing very costly bases in a region of the world that is hostile to us; collective response…moooah!

    Bushco is tinkering with judicial system appointees and trying to sway outcomes in ongoing Federal investigations and proceedings; collective response…moooah!

    Bushco immediately commutates or pardons cronies who are blatantly involved with violating statutues; collective response…moooah!

    Bushco’s policies have broken this nation financially and reduced us to the world’s premier debtor among debtor nations; collective response…moooah!

    On and on the list can go and so to the collective…moooah’s!

    I fear that we are witnessing the twilights last gleaming! They are hammering out the creation of the “North American Union” right now and plan on slipping this one in front of our Congressional traitors; i.e, the merging of Canada, the U.S.,and Mexico into one large entity similar to the concept of the Euro. This is also precisely why they don’t want to start seriously enforcing our southern borders because it’s in conflict with their NWO plans to neutralize the U.S. and simply turn this once great nation into nothing but an “enterprise zone”, simply a minor plantation in the shadowy oligarchs’ greater world plantation. Of course as ususal the American taxpayer will have to pay the freight with more debt money while illegals from south of the border skate and our friends in Canada scratch their heads and butts thinking “what the f..k eh?!”

    What will the average afore-described American “consumer/victim” do; collective response…moooah!?

    My suggestion is that Americans identify and earmark every Congressional traitor that’s involved with this plan and to give them a summary boot over the side when they come due for re-election also call them and let them know in no uncertain terms that’s what you will do and then carry out your threat. If the situation warrants even make the effort to recall them immediately if not sooner. They will shove this North American Union through the same way they did with NAFTA and CAFTA and our involvement with the WTO, all anathema to our people, our markets and the well-being of the people of this country. These evil mattoids are all probably laughing their butts off because to them it’s a slam dunk with the likes of Bush/Cheney; i.e, The Penguin and The Joker working as a team to screw “we the people” for all time and places.

    I’ll post the duty links and I urge every citizen/patriot to get involved with the process of their government. Chuck your meds down the drain, start excercising, quit drinking and packing your faces with excess food and think twice before you purchase more useless techno-crap that you really don’t need. Ask yourself this question. Do I need it or do I want it? If you have a true need then buy the best you can afford and if you only want something then it’s best you fade the craving because that’s all it amounts to; i.e., craving. Start focusing on your way of life and start to value what you have! It’s better to be a free “out-of-pocket” pauper then to be a fat, drugged-out, bloated “slave” with lots of “stuff”…no?! Maybe not,do I hear another…moooah? Or a resounding…”Live free or die”…!

    “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”…Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. Sandra Price

    Now can we talk about why we should not trust a Republican President? Never have we seen a more dominating presense in our White House. They want the control over our lives and they have it.

    Remember the Congress approved of Bush’s choices so in a fact the voters approved as well.