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U.S. Wins Appeal on Domestic Spy Powers By ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Last updated: 1:33 p.m., Monday, March 24, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused Monday to be drawn into a dispute over the boundaries of a law giving the government broader surveillance authority after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations wanted the justices to consider when the government should be allowed to monitor someone's telephone conversations and e-mail, then use the information to prosecute them.
The Bush administration has argued the surveillance, and a special court that oversees sensitive domestic espionage tactics, are indispensable tools in the war on terror.
The ACLU used an unusual maneuver to get the case to the Supreme Court, filing an appeal on behalf of people who don't even know they're being monitored. The justices would have had to give special permission to allow it. They refused, without comment.
The action was not a ruling on the merits of the ACLU's challenge, and the issue is expected to return to the high court later.
The administration has aggressively defended its use of wiretaps approved by the super-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or "spy court," which deals with intelligence requests involving suspected spies, terrorists and foreign agents.
Even the spy court had reservations about that aggressiveness. Last May, the court ruled that the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress after the terrorist attacks did not justify the use of certain investigative techniques proposed by the administration.
Attorney General John Ashcroft appealed to a review court which had never met or issued a decision during the spy court's 25-year existence. That court sided with the administration and said government officials did not have to limit their monitoring to foreign intelligence. That means law enforcement officers can use the information to build cases for prosecution.
Ashcroft cheered the court action. "It is vitally important that the government's intelligence and law enforcement officials coordinate their efforts to protect America from foreign threats to our national security," he said.
The review court decision "opens the door to surveillance abuses that seriously threatened our democracy in the past," justices were told in the filing by the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
To get a warrant from the spy court, the government must show that a suspect probably is a "foreign power or agent of a foreign power." Law enforcement must meet a higher standard -- probable cause that a crime was committed -- to get an ordinary criminal warrant for wiretapping or other electronic intrusion.
The administration did not respond to the ACLU's appeal. Any of the nine justices could have demanded a response, but none did.
The spy court has approved thousands of warrants since it was established by Congress in 1978, and it only rarely turns down the government.
The case is one of two at the Supreme Court involving issues related to the terrorist attacks. The other challenges the government's holding of closed deportation hearings after the attacks.
Ashcroft has approved more than 170 emergency domestic spying warrants, triple the number used in the previous 23 years.
The emergency warrants, which are authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, permit authorities to tap telephones and fax numbers and conduct physical searches for up to 72 hours before they are subject to review by the special, secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
In testimony to Congress earlier this month, Ashcroft said there were more than 1,000 applications for FISA warrants in 2002, including the emergency warrants.
The ACLU had filed challenges in Michigan and New Jersey, on behalf of media organizations seeking access to hearings involving foreigners swept up in the terrorism probes.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the attorney general has the right to close the hearings for reasons of national security. The ACLU appealed the decision. The government has until next month to appeal an appeals court decision that went the other way.
"The courts continue to have a critical role in ensuring that the government's efforts to protect national security are done in a manner that is consistent with protecting civil liberties," said Steven Shapiro, the ACLU's legal director.
-------------------- You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for that my dear friend is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. ~ Adrian Rogers
Good thing everything will be back to normal once every single terrorist on the planet is thrown in jail.
-------------------- "I have no valid complaint against hustlers. No rational bitch. But the act of selling is repulsive to me. I harbor a secret urge to whack a salesman in the face, crack his teeth and put red bumps around his eyes." -Hunter S Thompson
I find this encouraging "Even the spy court had reservations about that aggressiveness. Last May, the court ruled that the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress after the terrorist attacks did not justify the use of certain investigative techniques proposed by the administration."
and the fact that they turn them down at all. "The spy court has approved thousands of warrants since it was established by Congress in 1978, and it only rarely turns down the government."
But I'm sure that these instances are just part of a conspiracy to make us feel more comfortable with this right?
-------------------- Be all and you'll be to end all
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