The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a legal challenge to the warrantless domestic spying program President George W. Bush created after the September 11 attacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union had asked the justices to hear the case after a lower court ruled the ACLU, other groups and individuals that sued the government had no legal right to do so because they could not prove they had been affected by the program.
The civil liberties group also asked the nation’s highest court to make clear that Bush does not have the power under the U.S. Constitution to engage in intelligence surveillance within the United States that Congress has expressly prohibited.
“The president is bound by the laws that Congress enacts. He may disagree with those laws, but he may not disobey them,” Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in the appeal.
Bush authorized the program to monitor international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a court warrant. The program’s disclosure in December 2005 caused a political uproar among Democrats, some Republicans and civil liberties activists.
The administration abandoned the program about a year ago, putting it under the surveillance court that Congress created more than 30 years ago.
The high court’s action means that Bush will be able to disregard whatever legislative eavesdropping restrictions Congress adopts as there will be no meaningful judicial review, the ACLU attorneys said.
The journalists, scholars, attorneys and national advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit said the illegal surveillance had disrupted their ability to communicate with sources and clients.
The appeals court based in Cincinnati dismissed the case because the plaintiffs could not state with certainty they had been wiretapped by the government’s National Security Agency.
Administration lawyers opposed the appeal and said further review by the Supreme Court was unwarranted.
The Supreme Court sided with the administration and rejected the appeal without any comment.