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DOMESTIC SPYING

ACLU's Suit Against Wiretapping Is Declined

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Supreme Court yesterday declined without comment to hear the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge of the Bush administration's domestic spying program.

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"We're disappointed," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project. "Allowing the executive branch to police itself" is at odds with the Constitution's system of checks and balances.

The ACLU brought suit on behalf of journalists, lawyers and others in charging that the administration's warrantless wiretapping that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was unconstitutional. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said that because none of those in the suit could prove they had been monitored, they had no standing to bring the suit.

Congress and the White House are at odds over the law that governs the administration's surveillance program.

The Bush administration wants to make permanent the Protect America Act, which expanded the powers of the government to monitor without warrants the communications of foreign suspects, including international phone calls and e-mails passing through or into the United States. But the House has balked because of civil liberties concerns.

The administration's program is being challenged in other courts, Jaffer said, but "for now we will concentrate on Congress.''

The justices yesterday also declined to intervene in a lawsuit by Xavier University and other organizations and individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina. They were appealing a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that said their insurance policies did not cover damage from floods.

The court accepted four new cases, including one to determine whether fees of nonunion employees can be used by the union to pay for activities in other states. The case from Maine concerns nonmembers who are required to pay a service fee to the union for collective bargaining efforts and other activities that benefit them.

-- Robert Barnes


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