July 10, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND, ME - The American Civil
Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking to throw out the new FISA Amendments
Act that would vastly expand the government's ability to conduct mass
surveillance on the international communications of Americans.
new law, which was signed by President Bush today, amends the 1978 Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, and allows the government to avoid any prior
court review when it seeks to monitor Americans' international communications.
Under the previous law, any surveillance had to be approved by the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the
ACLU National Security Project, said today the new law would facilitate the
"mass acquisition" of information by the government, and would permit the
government to conduct "intrusive surveillance without telling who, where, or why
they are seeking the information."
The lawsuit, filed in the
Southern District of New York, challenges the new law as a violation of the
First and Fourth Amendment rights to free speech and privacy. The lawsuit was
filed on behalf of a group of journalists and human rights activists whose
ability to conduct their work will be hampered by the new
Among the plaintiffs is Naomi Klein, a journalist for The
Nation magazine, whose communications with confidential, international sources
will be jeopardized.
"I cannot in good conscience accept that my
communications with people who live outside the U.S. will put them in harm's way
because of overzealous government spying," said Klein. "Privacy in my
communications is not simply an expectation, it's a right."
legislation would also grant immunity to the phone companies who aided the
government by providing customers' information without proper court
authorization. This would effectively end the legal cases which sought to hold
the companies accountable for their participation in the program, including a
case filed in Maine which sought to determine the extent of Verizon's
participation in the program
"Congress has abandoned its
responsibility to uphold the Constitution," said Shenna Bellows, Executive
Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "We turn now to the courts to
restore our Fourth Amendment right to privacy in our international Internet and