Appeals court revives lawsuit against NSA surveillance of Americans

A United States appeals court has revived and reinstated a lawsuit against a government policy that allows for the surveillance of civilians' telephone calls and emails.

The controversial law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), was put into place in late 2008 when the media grew aware of the extensive surveillance on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA) — more so when it became known that AT&T was complying with the government's wishes and handing over its customers' data and records. The law allows for the NSA to tap into citizens' communications mediums without a warrant as long as one party resides outside of the US and is suspected of a link to terrorism.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with other civil groups filed a lawsuit; however in August 2009 District Court Judge John Koeltl dismissed the case, claiming the plaintiffs could not prove they were subject to the surveillance done by the NSA. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, saying that they often talked to parties outside of the US through electronic mediums but now have to take expensive trips overseas. They also argued that FISA goes against their Fourth Amendment rights.

Today, a federal appeals court agreed with the ACLU and is allowing it to challenge the law. According to PCWorld, the three-judge panel wrote that the law "has put the plaintiffs in a lose-lose situation: either they can continue to communicate sensitive information electronically and bear a substantial risk of being monitored under a statute they allege to be unconstitutional, or they can incur financial and professional costs to avoid being monitored."

The judges believed that the plaintiffs had a "reasonable fear" of being monitored; the case will now return to Judge John Koeltl's New York-based courtroom.

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