The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Thursday over a controversial wiretapping law, challenging the constitutionality of the expanded spy powers Congress granted to the president on Wednesday.
The federal lawsuit was filed with the court just hours after Bush signed the bill into law.
The ACLU is suing on behalf of journalist and human rights groups, asking the court put a halt to Congress’s legalization of Bush’s formerly secret warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU contends (.pdf) the expanded spying power violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
On Wednesday, the Senate gave final congressional approval to a massive expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, finishing a year of debate over how far the U.S. government should be able to conduct blanket surveillance using telecom facilities inside the United States.
In passing the FISA Amendments Act, Congress gave the executive branch the power to order Google, AT&T and Yahoo to forward to the government all e-mails, phone calls and text messages where one party to the conversation is thought to be overseas. President Bush signed the bill into law Thursday morning, describing it as a bill that “protect[s] the liberties of our citizens while maintaining the vital flow of intelligence.”
The ACLU contends those blanket powers to grab international communications of Americans without specific court orders violate the Fourth Amendment and would stymie journalists who often speak to confidential sources outside the country.
Plaintiff Naomi Klein, the liberal columnist and author, said the surveillance would compromise her writing about international issues.
“If the U.S. government is given unchecked surveillance power to monitor reporters’ confidential sources, my ability to do this work will be seriously compromised,” Klein said.