Court Rejects ACLU Domestic Spying Suit
By Lisa Cornwell
A federal appeals court Friday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging President Bush's domestic spying program, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.
The 2-1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel vacated a 2006 order by a lower court in Detroit, which had found the post-Sept. 11 warrantless surveillance aimed at uncovering terrorist activity to be unconstitutional, violating rights to privacy and free speech and the separation of powers.
U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, one of the two Republican appointees who ruled against the plaintiffs, said they failed to show they were subject to the surveillance and therefore do not have standing for their claims.
U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, a Democratic appointee, disagreed, saying he felt the plaintiffs were within their rights to sue and that it was clear to him that the surveillance program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Although the Bush administration said in January the program is now overseen by a special federal intelligence court, opponents said that without a court order, the president could resume the spying outside judicial authority at any time.
The American Civil Liberties Union led the lawsuit on behalf of other groups including lawyers, journalists and scholars it says have been handicapped in doing their jobs by the government monitoring.
Other groups have filed challenges to the program in other courts; this case proceeded the furthest. If the ACLU does not appeal, the case will be sent back to the U.S. district judge in Michigan for dismissal.