Court Limits Lawsuits Over Government Surveillance

A federal appeals court has ruled that civil liberties groups have no standing to challenge President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program in court.

The court ruled that only people who can demonstrate that they've been spied on have the right to sue. The records of who's been wiretapped are top secret, so it's not likely that anyone would ever be able to demonstrate that he or she had been a target of the program.

Rights Groups Cannot Sue Over Spying, Court Says

Civil liberties groups cannot sue the federal government to stop President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, according to a ruling from a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Cincinnati.

The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of reporters, academics, and others who believe their phone calls and e-mails may have been intercepted in the Bush administration's domestic spying program.They argued that those wiretaps inhibit speech and unconstitutionally violate Americans' privacy.

The problem with that argument, according to the new ruling, is that the people who filed the lawsuit can't prove that they have been spied on. And if they haven't been spied on, they haven't been harmed by the program.

Continuing in that train of thought, the court ruled, if they haven't personally suffered any injury from the program, then they don't have standing to file a lawsuit. For that reason, the court ordered that the case be thrown out.

The records of who has been spied on are top secret. So there's effectively no way for anyone to prove they were personally subjected to the program.

But Judge Ronald Lee Gilman said he would have ruled against the Bush administration. He said the groups were harmed by the wiretaps, whether or not they were personally targeted. Further, he believes the program violates the laws governing domestic spying.

The judge wrote, "the president does not have the inherent authority to act in disregard of those statutes."

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