Clapper v. Amnesty International, Warrantless Wiretapping Challenge, Struck Down By Supreme Court
...At issue is the government's warrantless wiretapping program, begun in secret and without congressional authorization under the George W. Bush administration. In the wake of a 2008 federal law passed to legalize that program, the National Security Agency and other agencies are supposed to be able to read emails and listen in on phone calls without a warrant -- but only when they are targeting foreign nationals.
Journalists and others pressing the case as plaintiffs, however, worry that American citizens could have their calls swept up if they happened to contact the NSA's targets. They filed suit in a First Amendment challenge against the law the day it was passed. The ruling on Tuesday will block their lawsuit but does not touch on the constitutionality of the wiretapping program itself.
The court's ruling amounts to something of a catch-22 for the plaintiffs. The program is so secret that reporters and human rights advocates don't know whether they're being wiretapped. But because they don't know whether they're actually having their calls picked up, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court's conservative majority, the plaintiffs' argument that they have the standing to challenge the program was based on a "highly speculative fear."
The plaintiffs, Alito argued, "have no actual knowledge of the Government’s ... targeting practices." They "can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target. ...