The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a brief with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco yesterday challenging the constitutionality of a law aimed at granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the warrantless wiretapping program. The brief argues that the FISA Amendments Act violates the federal government’s separation of powers and robs telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. The constitutional challenge is set to be heard on Dec. 2.
This is part of an ongoing lawsuit begun in 2006 after revelations that AT&T allowed the federal government to listen in on customers’ calls without first securing a warrant. In July, Congress passed the FISA law granting immunity to the telcos who participated in the wiretapping.
FISA allows the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms’ participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the Attorney General (a member of the executive branch) secretly certifies to the court that either the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said in a statement, “In our constitutional system, it is the judiciary’s role as a co-equal branch of government to determine the scope of the surveillance and rule on whether it is legal, not the executive’s.”