Government Cannot be Sued for Violating its Own Wiretapping Laws

Dec 14, 2012

There’s more bad news on the Fourth Amendment front as the appeals court reviewing a lawsuit filed against the US government for illegally spying on American citizens has declined to rehear the Al-Haramain case.

A federal appeals court is refusing to reconsider its August ruling in which it said the federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued.

The original decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer reversed the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Without comment, the San Francisco-based appeals court announced Wednesday that it would not rehear (.pdf) the case again with a larger panel of 11 judges, effectively setting the stage for a Supreme Court showdown. The appeals court Wednesday also made some minor amendments (.pdf) to its August ruling, but the thrust of it was the same as before.

Not only does this mean the plaintiffs will have to take the case to the Supreme Court (if it will hear the case), but it also means the damages awarded ($20,000 each for the two plaintiffs and $2.5 million in legal fees) have been reversed.

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