Whether the federal government and the nation’s telecommunication companies can be held accountable for allegedly funneling every American’s electronic communication to the National Security Agency without warrants is the subject of oral arguments scheduled for a federal appeals court Wednesday.
At issue is a Jan. 31, 2006 lawsuit, and others that followed, alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures. The cases, about three dozen which will be consolidated into two oral arguments, have been thrown out of court on a variety of grounds, chiefly the government’s claim that the lawsuits would expose state secrets, and a 2008 law that immunized the nation’s telcos from such lawsuits.
Nearly six years later, the merits of the lawsuits have never been addressed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the leading cases, appealed, and contends that the litigation should never have been dismissed.