High Court Let’s Telecoms Keep Immunity in NSA Spy Case

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has put an end to lawsuits against telecommunications companies for helping the Bush administration spy on American phone calls and emails.


During the height of Bush’s war-on-terror, the National Security Agency (NSA) gained access to the electronic systems of AT&T and other telecoms. The illegal surveillance outraged civil libertarians who filed more than 30 lawsuits, which prompted Congress in 2008 to grant retroactive immunity to companies aiding the NSA.


The lawsuits were eventually consolidated into a single case. But because of the immunity law, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to overturn the decision.


As a last resort, lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing the retroactive immunity was an “unprecedented violation of the separation of powers” because it shielded the executive branch from being held accountable in court.


In a single sentence, the high court rejected the request, ending the six-year legal battle. But critics of the government—who say its mass warrantless collection of emails, telephone calls and other records is unconstitutional and not protected by claims of state secrets—continue other court challenges.


EFF is pursuing a similar case against the government in federal court, Jewel v. NSA, that was filed when the suit against the telecoms hit its early roadbloacks. It is scheduled for a hearing in San Francisco next month.

–Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Supreme Court Ends Suit against Telecom Firms for Aiding NSA (by David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times)

Supreme Court Terminates Warrantless Electronic Spying Case (by David Kravets, Wired)

EFF Opposes US Government's State Secrets Claim (Again) in Jewel v. NSA, the Warrantless Wiretapping Case (by Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation)


anonymouse 7 years ago
Well, sure. In the neo-feudal state we are becoming, the ideal is being realized. The wage-slaves bear all the costs of feeding, housing, healing, educating, and defending themselves, while also bearing all the risks that their corporate owners face in doing business. To reach this corportist nirvana, government is co-opted in order to provide cover for criminal negligence, fraud, and those other forms of malfeasance necessary to produce ever-increasing profits.

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