The Obama administration defended a warrantless wiretapping law before the Supreme Court on Monday.
At stake in the case is whether civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International, have the legal standing to challenge the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments, which former President George W. Bush signed into law in 2008.
The law authorizes the government to monitor phone calls and emails without a warrant as long as one of the parties to the communication is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. The civil liberties groups sued, arguing the law allows for “dragnet surveillance” of American citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general of the United States, argued that the civil liberties groups cannot challenge the law’s constitutionality because it does not harm them.
But Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU, argued that his organization has had to take expensive precautions to keep the government from listening in on phone calls with clients who are suspected of terrorist activity. He argued that those precautions, such as flying overseas to meet clients face-to-face, qualify as a harm of the law, giving the ACLU the right to sue.