With President Bush’s signature still drying on a new law that expands the government’s warrantless surveillance program, the American Civil Liberties Union is headed to court with a legal challenge.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Thursday in New York federal court seeking to block the law, which gives legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that allegedly assisted the National Security Agency with its warrantless wiretapping program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The new law, an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the NSA to monitor Americans’ phone calls and emails to people abroad.
The ACLU filed the legal challenge on behalf of a group of attorneys and groups involved with human rights, labor, the law and the media. They said their work, which relies on confidential communications, will be compromised by the law.
“The challenged law reduces the likelihood that clients, journalistic sources, witnesses, experts, foreign government officials and victims of human rights abuses will share sensitive information with the plaintiffs,” the ACLU said in its complaint.
The plaintiffs said that while the government has a legitimate interest in monitoring the communications of people who may pose a threat to the U.S, the new law did not include the proper constitutional safeguards.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction that would bar the government from conducting surveillance operations under the law.
AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and other companies have been hit with dozens of civil lawsuits stemming from their alleged cooperation with the government’s spying efforts.
Under the law’s immunity provision, the telephone companies can have the lawsuits thrown out if they are able to show that the government requested their participation in the wiretapping program. – cnn