David Kravets has more on Judge Walker’s decision in two cases involving domestic surveillance:
A federal judge is dismissing lawsuits accusing the government of teaming with the nation’s telcos to funnel Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision was a major blow to the two suits testing warrantless eavesdropping and executive branch powers implemented following the 2001 terror attacks. The San Francisco judge said the courts are not available to the public to mount that challenge.
“A citizen may not gain standing by claiming a right to have the government follow the law,” (.pdf) Walker ruled late Thursday.
He noted that the plaintiffs include most every American connected to the internet or to have used a telephone — meaning the lawsuits boil down to a “general grievance” and are barred. The decision came days after a government audit showed the telecom companies and FBI collaborated for four years, between 2003 and 2007, to violate federal wiretapping laws.
Judge Walker said that the lawsuits, in essence, cannot be brought because they are “citizen suits seeking to employ judicial remedies to punish and bring to heel high-level government officials for the allegedly illegal and unconstitutional warrantless electronic surveillance program or programs now widely, if incompletely, aired in the public forum.”
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