Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Federal Surveillance Law Upheld by Supreme Court

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Federal Surveillance Law Upheld by Supreme Court

Article excerpt

The plaintiffs had said the law that authorized intercepting international communications involving Americans violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment.

In a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that authorized intercepting international communications involving Americans.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates who challenged the constitutionality of the law could not show they had been harmed by it and so lacked standing to sue. Their fear that they would be subject to future surveillance was too speculative to establish standing, he wrote.

Justice Alito also rejected arguments based on the steps the plaintiffs had taken to escape surveillance, including traveling to meet sources and clients in person rather than talking to them over the phone.

"They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of non-imminent harms," he wrote of the plaintiffs.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion.

In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the harm claimed by the plaintiffs was not speculative.

"Indeed," he wrote, "it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen."

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined his dissenting opinion.

The decision, Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, probably means the Supreme Court will never rule on the constitutionality of the law, a 2008 measure that broadened the government's power to eavesdrop on international communications.

The law, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was passed after the 2005 disclosure of the Bush administration's secret program to wiretap international communications of people inside the United States without obtaining court warrants. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.