Civil Suits for Government Phone Surveillance Rejected by Supreme Court


On October 9th, the Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit against phone companies that allowed the federal government to eavesdrop on customers’ phone lines without a warrant, and without a court overseeing which phone lines were tapped and

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2001, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Section 802, granted the Attorney General complete discretion to eavesdrop whenever deemed necessary for national intelligence, and additionally disallowed civil action against any individual or organization that assisted the government in obtaining this intelligence.

In December 2011, a group of San Francisco customers filed 33 lawsuits against phone companies including AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp, and Verizon Communications Inc . with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The suits alleged that the government trawls individual conversations randomly without reasonable suspicious or cause, violating individual rights to privacy. The lawsuits were rejected. In the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations maintained that Section 802 violates the separation of the powers set out in the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court rejected the challenge without providing a further explanation.

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