CCR Warrantless Wiretapping Case Dismissed By Federal Judge

For Immediate Release

CCR Warrantless Wiretapping Case Dismissed By Federal Judge

Obama Administration Wins Right to Keep Any Records of Illegal Surveillance

NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO - Last night the federal district court in San Francisco dismissed CCR v. Obama, a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) against
the Bush administration in 2006 to challenge the legality of the
National Security Administration’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping
program. The suit originally sought an injunction ordering the
government to end the program, and in response to this and other
litigation, the government claimed to have shut down the program by
2007. In the remaining part of the case, CCR asked the court to order
the government to destroy any records of surveillance of the
plaintiffs—CCR attorneys and legal staff who feared that their phone
calls and emails were subject to surveillance under the program.

 
The government argued that CCR did not have standing to sue because
the Center lacked evidence that its staff and attorneys had actually
been surveilled (and could not obtain or use such evidence in the court
proceedings because such evidence would be a “state secret”). The court
agreed, holding that, even though “plaintiffs appear to have established
that their litigation activities have become more costly due to their
concern about [possible surveillance under the NSA Program],” plaintiffs
could not sue without proof that they had actually been eavesdropped
upon.
 
“The Obama administration has never taken a position—in this or any
of the other related cases—on whether the Bush administration’s NSA
surveillance program was legal. Instead, it fought to keep this case out
of court on the Catch-22 argument that no one can ever prove they were
targeted by a secret program,” said CCR Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal.
“Despite considerable public evidence that attorneys were targeted by
the program, the court refused to even order the minimum relief we
sought—an order that the government destroy any records of this illegal
surveillance that it still retains. It is astonishing that President
Obama’s administration continues to fight to hold on to the fruits of a
patently illegal surveillance program, even where that surveillance was
directed at attorneys engaged in suing the government.”
 
In its briefs, the government acknowledged that it would be a
“reasonable inference” to conclude from statements of government
officials “that some attorney-client communications may have been
surveilled under” the NSA Program.
 
CCR v. Bush was filed against President George W. Bush,
the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the
other major security agencies, challenging the NSA's warrantless
surveillance of people within the United States. As was widely reported,
the NSA, for more than four years and with the approval of President
Bush, engaged in a widespread program of warrantless electronic
surveillance of telephone calls and emails in violation of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA explicitly authorizes
electronic surveillance for the purposes of collecting foreign
intelligence only upon orders issued by federal judges who sit on a
special court. It expressly authorizes warrantless wiretapping only for
the first fifteen days of a war and makes it a crime to engage in
wiretapping without specific statutory authority. Rather than seeking to
amend the statute, President Bush simply violated it.
 
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
Attorney General Gonzales for targeting under the NSA Surveillance
Program. CCR has represented, among others, men detained indefinitely
without charge at Guantánamo Bay; Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was
wrongly accused of al Qaeda ties and then rendered from the United
States to Syria for the purpose of being interrogated under torture; 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.
CCR has been one of the most active opponents of the illegal detention,
torture and intelligence-gathering practices instituted post-9/11. In
the course of representing these clients, CCR’s lawyers engaged in
innumerable telephone calls and emails with people outside of the U.S.,
including clients, clients' families, outside attorneys, potential
witnesses and others.
 
For more information visit the CCR v. Bush case page.
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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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