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Agence France Presse

US Supreme Court Throws Out Wire-Tapping Case


The US Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a bid by journalists and professors to challenge the legality of the US administration's wire-tapping program.0219 10

The program, brought in after the September 11, 2001 attacks, allows US national security agencies to monitor suspect telephone calls and emails between the United States and overseas without first obtaining a judge's order.

In 2006 journalists and teachers filed a suit against the program maintaining it violated their right to privacy, saying because they had regular contacts with the Middle East, their freedom of expression would be restrained.

They specifically targetted the National Security Agency in the case which has now come before the country's highest court.

A lower court judge initially ordered an end to the program immediately, but the appeals court in July overturned that ruling saying the plaintiffs had not proved that their foreign communications were being monitored.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, as usual without giving a reason, thus upholding the appeals court ruling.

Dozens of similar cases have been brought across the country against the NSA, and most have been rejected as the plaintiffs could not prove their communications were tapped.

The wire-tapping program is now at the heart of a political tug-of-war between Congress and President George W. Bush.

Bush last week accused Democrats in the House of Representatives of putting Americans at risk by blocking Senate-passed legislation and allowing authorization for the post-September 11, 2001 program to expire as they went on vacation.

Temporary authorization expired on Saturday, but the surveillance continues under three decades old Foreign Surveillance Act.

As part of the increasing brinkmanship between Bush's Republicans and the Democratic-controlled Congress, the Senate passed a bill that makes the law permanent and grants immunity from prosecution to telecommunications companies which cooperate.

But House Democrats refused to rubber-stamp the measure.

Legal moves to overturn the legislation appear now to be grinding to a halt.

In November, an appeals court rejected a case brought by a Muslim charity in Oregon whose organizers by error had been sent documents in 2004 showing that they had been targeted by the wiretapping program.

The court ruled the documents were inadmissible as evidence.

Another series of suits are still to be heard by the courts brought by the clients of telecommunications companies against the operators suspected of cooperating with the government for years when the program was still legally contested.

© 2008 Agence France Presse

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