Clapper vs. Amnesty International USA

In 2008, the Bush administration signed a new law that expanded the powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct electronic surveillance on persons who are on foreign lands and are deemed by the aforementioned court target of interests based on only the fact that the person(s) has/have made contact with foreign intelligence agencies. Without the need to prove the person or persons in question having substantial connections to outside intelligence powers, the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enables warantless governmental monitoring of international communications, which means secret wiretapping, eavesdropping, intervening of emails, phone calls and other form of electronic communications are legal. In response, a number of lawyers, journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, filed a complaint to the federal court, claiming the law unconstitutional. A district court turned the case down, but the decision was reversed by a federal circuit court and appealed by the Obama administration, the case was taken to the Supreme Court. In the end, the case was dismissed based on the argument that the plaintiff do not have sufficient requirement for good standing. The plaintiff argued that because of the law, they had to spend more effort and resources in protecting the identity of their international contacts, which caused injuries. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reasoned that the organizations were causing injuries to themselves because of their measures and that their injuries are not imminent. The Supreme Court agreed that the organizations were basing their fear out of speculation and made up worst case scenarios, then dismissed the case.


Comments: I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision because the plaintiff did not provide enough evidence to make a strong case on how the new law can truly harm people by invading their privacy. I also agree with the complaining groups’ viewpoint that this sets up precedence to the government’s further intrusion in telecommunications because the law didn’t have enough restrictions on who would be qualified to be observed, as it also affects US Citizens on foreign soil. I predict that someday a similar case will rise, with significant evidences to challenge the law’s constitutionality. For that, we will have to wait and see.

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