US appeals court clears way for wiretap challenge

March 21, 2011 20:38

NEW YORK - A US federal appeals court on Monday allowed rights groups to challenge a spy law that allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on foreign communications without court approval.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned a lower court ruling and granted rights groups the legal ground to challenge a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

At the time of the 2008 bill, critics complained it allowed warrantless surveillance of the phone calls and e-mails of Americans who communicate with foreign targets.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others sued the US attorney general and other government officials in July 2008.

They argued they had the standing to fight the law because they suspected their communications with people abroad were being monitored. The court ruled that costly steps taken to avoid being monitored represented evidence of fear.

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