US civil rights activists protest new wiretapping law
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against the US government to protest the new Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) recently passed by Congress. The civil rights organisation believes that the far-reaching authority granted by the Act, which has now been signed by George W. Bush, is unconstitutional. In their official complaint, they argue that the change in FISA allows the government and security authorities to "monitor the communications of US citizens and residents, without identifying the people to be surveyed; without specifying the facilities, places, premises, or property to be monitored; [and] without observing meaningful limitations on the retention, analysis, and dissemination of acquired information".
In addition, they argue that the amended law does not require any judge to issue a specific, individual warrant based on probable cause, nor do authorities need to establish a connection between the targets of surveillance and foreign agents or terrorism. As a result, the ACLU believes that the Act makes mass wiretapping of telephone calls and emails legal, thereby constituting abuse of governmental authority and a violation of the right to free speech and privacy as granted in the Constitution.
The ACLU filed suit in the District of New York on behalf of numerous human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International USA, the PEN writers' organisation, and news magazine The Nation, which publishes regular columns by Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges. Klein, a Canadian critic of globalisation said, "If the U.S. government is given unchecked surveillance power to monitor reporters' confidential sources, my ability to do this work will be seriously compromised." She said it was not acceptable if communication with informants outside the US puts them at risk because state spying has gone haywire.
At the beginning of 2006, the ACLU originally filed suit against the Bush administration's wiretapping program, which the amended FISA now largely legitimates; the wiretapping is conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). The ACLA lost the appeal in that case. In contrast, in its court case the US Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is focusing on collaboration between the US Secret Service and such telcos as AT&T. The Internet activists are, however, also protesting a new clause in FISA that provides immunity to the government's agents. An EFF lawyer has also announced that the organisation will file suit, in principle, against wiretapping without a warrant from a judge. He said the goal was to bring the network of spying to light and put an end to it.