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Update: FISA Amendments Act Case

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December 12, 2008

Today, we filed another brief (and our last at this stage of the game) in our case challenging the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA). It lays out our arguments for why the law violates the Constitution. It also explains why our plaintiffs, attorneys, journalists and human rights organizations are harmed by the law and have standing to challenge it.

The case was originally filed back in July – less than 24 hours after the FAA was singed into law – and challenges the constitutionality of the surveillance law that grants the government’s unprecedented power to conduct warrantless, suspicion-less dragnet monitoring of Americans’ international communications with the help of U.S. telecomm companies. The law not only essentially legalized the secret warrantless spying program the president approved in late 2001, it gave the government expanded spying powers, including the power to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.

In the brief filed today, we argue that the government needs a warrant before it can monitor the content of our communications and that the FAA is unreasonable. We also argue that our plaintiffs have good reason to believe that the government is using the FAA to monitor their communications. In fact, the FAA has already compelled them to take costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of their telephone and email communications; caused them to forego some communications that are especially sensitive; and discouraged sources from giving them information that is relevant and necessary to their work.

The government should not be allowed to collect thousands or millions of Americans’ communications without any of the Fourth Amendment’s traditional requirements or safeguards (like prior judicial approval, suspicion, limits on what they can collect). It violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy. And the FAA is just one of the many troubling surveillance practices we’ve seen since 9/11. (See our Surveillance Society fact sheet to learn more.)

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