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Attorneys Argue Snowden Revelations on Spying Require SCOTUS to Revisit Earlier Decision in Amnesty v. Clapper
January 2, 2014, Washington – Today, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) petitioned the Supreme Court to review their case challenging surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the spying program. CCR filed the suit, CCR v. Obama, on behalf of itself and its legal staff whose communications fit the criteria used by the NSA for illegally targeting calls and emails. This would likely have included communications between the Center for Constitutional Rights and its clients detained at Guantanamo. The case originally challenged the warrantless NSA spying that began under the Bush administration and was revealed by the New York Times in 2005, just after the election. The Obama administration has yet to take a position on the legality of the program.
“We have always been confident that our communications – including privileged attorney-client phone calls – were being unlawfully monitored by the NSA, but Edward Snowden’s revelations of a massive, indiscriminate NSA spying program changes the picture,” said CCR Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal. “Federal courts have dismissed surveillance cases, including ours, based on criteria established before Snowden’s documents proved that such concerns are obviously well-founded.”
CCR attorneys argued the Bush administration program was unconstitutional and had forced them to take costly and burdensome countermeasures to minimize the risk of having their privileged client communications intercepted by the NSA. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed CCR’s case on the grounds that the attorneys’ concerns about NSA surveillance of attorney-client communications were too “speculative,” based on a pre-Snowden ruling by the Supreme Court, Amnesty v. Clapper. CCR is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider or limit its earlier ruling, because it was based on assumptions that NSA surveillance was far more narrow in scope than Snowden’s revelations have shown.
“Without reversal or clarification of Clapper v. Amnesty from the Supreme Court, lower courts will continue to dismiss claims by lawyers without proof to a certainty that they are being surveilled,” said Kadidal.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.