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Supreme Court Allows Wiretapping Immunity Law To Stand
October 10, 2012 | Telepresence Options
By Cyrus Farivar -
The Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling in a case that challenged a Bush-era law (the FISA Amendments Act), retroactively giving telecommunications firms--including Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T--legal immunity after performing warrantless wiretapping at the government's request.
The case, Hepting v. AT&T, was a class-action suit filed in 2006 by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of customers. They originally sought billions of dollars in damages by arguing the telecom firms violated both users' privacy and federal law. However, in the wake of this lawsuit and others like it, Congress passed the retroactive immunity law (FISA AA). The central question in the Hepting case was whether these immunity provisions were constitutional.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (PDF) the district court's ruling, which confirmed congressional authority to delegate oversight power--allowing the Attorney General to step in and halt private party telecom cases in certain circumstances, such as Hepting. The Ninth Circuit found the US Constitution does not forbid such delegated action.
However, the EFF still has another case pending, Jewel v. NSA, which targets the federal agencies involved as well as the government officials behind them (including President George W. Bush and other members of his administration). The EFF will be filing a motion for summary judgment in Jewel later on Tuesday.
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