Immunity Sealed: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Telecom Spying

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Common Dreams

Immunity Sealed: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Telecom Spying

Supreme Court on Tuesday rejects challenge to 2008 law allowing warrantless domestic surveillance

by
Common Dreams staff

"After 11 years and multiple congressional reports, public admissions and media coverage, the only place that this program hasn't been seriously considered is in the courts," said Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (image: Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Telecommunications giants will continue to receive immunity for helping the U.S. government engage in widespread warrantless domestic spying, the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Tuesday.

The Court yesterday issued the blow to civil liberties when it rejected to hear a challenge to a 2008 law brought by rights groups Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU who charged that the practice infringed upon the rights of U.S. citizens and that telecom giants like AT&T, Spring and Verizon had violated federal laws.

"After 11 years and multiple congressional reports, public admissions and media coverage, the only place that this program hasn't been seriously considered is in the courts," Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a statement.

Reuters reports that Richard Wiebe, the lead lawyer for the customers whose communications had been accessed, said, "It's one more example of the court stepping back from taking any role in enforcing the rule of law in the war on terror."

Former constitutional lawyer and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald writes that the decision is another example of the elite who "must not be and are not subject to the rule of law."

That the domestic spying was in violation of federal law was explained by National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney, who spent nearly four decades at the agency, to Democracy Now! earlier this year. 

Binney says that "after 9/11, all the wraps came off" and that "between the White House and NSA and CIA, they decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens" in gathering communications from U.S. citizens.

As the program changed in the wake of 9/11, Binney felt he had to leave the agency "because it was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. Plus it violated the pen register law and Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978. I mean, it was just this whole series of—plus all the laws covering federal communications governing telecoms. I mean, all those laws were being violated, including the Constitution."

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