SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 9 - The Center for Constitutional Rights appears today before Federal District Judge Vaughn R. Walker to argue that the NSA's program of warrantless surveillance is unconstitutional and should be struck down. The argument in CCR v. Bush comes days after Congress and the Bush administration passed the Protect America Act of 2007 which broadly expands the government's power to spy on Americans without getting court approval.
According to attorneys, there are substantial questions about whether the new law, which is temporary and due to expire in six months, is constitutional, and they will seek permission to file additional legal papers to that effect today. The law effectively removes oversight for spying from the FISA court and leaves it up to the Executive Branch to monitor itself, with Attorney General Gonzales having the primary responsibility for oversight. For that reason, CCR attorneys will argue in court today that the new law violates the Fourth Amendment's requirement that judges approve warrants for surveillance and do so only on evidence of probable cause.
The administration has continued to claim that the NSA program was always legal and that they have the inherent right to resume such surveillance at any time regardless of what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) says. CCR attorneys therefore argue that their case has not been rendered moot by the new law, which in any event will expire in six months.
According to CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, "Congress has ceded further power to an administration that has done nothing but abuse its power and betray the trust of the American people. Congress has given the President and Attorney General virtually unchecked power to spy on international calls of Americans without any oversight or accountability from the courts."
CCR v. Bush was originally filed in federal court in New York but was subsequently transferred to San Francisco where other challenges related to the program, including cases against several large telecommunications companies for their role in the NSA Program, are being litigated.
CCR's case challenges the NSA's surveillance of people within the United States without judicial approval or statutory authorization. CCR filed the suit on its own behalf and on behalf of CCR attorneys and legal staff representing clients who fit the criteria described by the Attorney General for targeting under the NSA Surveillance Program. CCR has been one of the most active opponents of the illegal detention, torture and intelligence gathering practices this administration instituted in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As part of its mission to fight violations of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the Center for Constitutional Rights represents hundreds of men detained indefinitely without charge as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay; Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen falsely accused of ties to terrorism and rendered from the United States to Syria for the purpose of being tortured; and Muslim immigrants unreasonably and wrongfully detained in the U.S. for months without probable cause or criminal charges in the wake of 9/11.
In the course of representing these clients, CCR's lawyers have engaged in thousands of telephone calls and e-mails with people outside the United States, including their clients, their clients' families and outside lawyers, potential witnesses, and others. Given that the government has accused many of CCR's overseas clients of being associated with Al Qaeda or of being of interest to the 9/11 investigation, there is little question that these attorneys fall within the likely range of victims of the NSA Surveillance Program.
CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, "It is virtually certain that the NSA spied on our confidential communications with our clients as well as conversations with other American attorneys outside of the U.S. The president violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the laws of this nation and instead secretly broke the law for years to spy on Americans. He has taken an axe to the Constitution."
The Center for Constitutional Rights is represented in the suit by CCR attorneys Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner, and CCR cooperating attorney David Cole, and Professor Michael Avery of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).
For more information on the case, visit www.ccr-ny.org/NSAspying. This release is posted at www.ccr-ny.org/NSAspying/release.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights demonstrators in the South, CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change."