American court makes spying with warrantless wiretaps legal

September 11, 2001 changed the world. As a result of 9/11, then USA President George W. Bush introduced what has come to be known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a program that allows the NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on conversations between an American and someone from outside the USA without requiring a court-issued warrant. This, of course, has been challenged in US courts multiple times but only one lawsuit was able to actually score a win against the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a case where two American lawyers were awarded $20,000 in damages (plus $2.5 million their lawyers were paid in fees) after they proved they were spied on without warrants. The US government appealed against the decision and a now the ruling by the Appeals Court is in: It is officially legal to spy on Americans (and outside parties) with warrantless wiretaps.

According to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the laws regulating domestic spying allow Americans to bring lawsuits against the American government for the use of information collected without warrants but “not for the collection of the information itself”. The court admitted this may be “anomalous and even unfair” but that the “policy judgment is one for Congress, not the courts”.

The final decision by the court leads to the conclusion that warrantless domestic wiretaps are legal, at least in this particular case. In the Court’s own words,

This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization

What a world we live in. The USA is supposed to be a beacon of freedom and human rights in world filled with messed up places yet our government is allowed to spy on us with little to no oversight. Looks like democracy can’t solve everything.

[via Wired | Image credit: EFF]

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