October 3, 2007 / 4:56 PM / 10 years ago

ACLU asks court to review domestic spying case

<p>The National Security Agency building is shown during a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush in Fort Meade, Maryland September 19, 2007.Jason Reed</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to review a legal challenge to the warrantless domestic spying program that President George W. Bush created after the September 11 attacks.

The civil liberties group challenged a U.S. appeals court ruling that said the organizations and individuals that sued the government had no legal right to do so because they could not prove they had been affected by the spying program.

Bush authorized the surveillance program to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a court warrant. The appeals court overturned a federal judge's ruling that the program was unconstitutional.

The journalists, scholars, attorneys and national advocacy organizations who filed the lawsuit maintained that the government's illegal surveillance had compromised their ability to do their jobs and disrupted their ability to communicate with sources and clients.

The appeals court dismissed the case because the plaintiffs could not state with certainty that they had been wiretapped by the government's National Security Agency. The ruling did not decide whether the program was lawful.

The appeal asked the Supreme Court to determine whether the plaintiffs have the right to bring the lawsuit and whether Bush has the power to engage in intelligence surveillance activities in the United States that Congress has prohibited.

"Innocent people who are harmed by illegal government surveillance should be able to challenge that surveillance in court," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project.

The surveillance program caused a political uproar among Democrats and some Republicans, as well as civil rights activists. The Bush administration abandoned the program in January, putting it under court review.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide late this year whether it will hear the ACLU's appeal.

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