A federal appeals court is being asked to reconsider its earlier ruling that the government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued.
The August 7 decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.
Jon Eisenberg, the California lawyer who brought the case on behalf of two American attorneys whose conversations were illegally wiretapped without warrants, asked the court to rehear the case with 11 judges, in what is known as an en banc panel.
The three-judge appeals court panel ruled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, adopted in the wake of the President Richard M. Nixon Watergate scandal, requires court authorization to eavesdrop on Americans’ communications. But the appeals court said Congress never authorized aggrieved Americans to sue and to seek compensation when the government breached that law.
So the court dismissed the case and the money damages originally awarded to the two lawyers for a Saudi-based charity. A lower court judge sided with Eisenberg’s clients, awarding them $20,000 each in damages and legal fees. The government appealed.