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Friday, January 22, 2010

Judge Dismisses NSA Spying Lawsuit, Asserting Too Many People Were Spied On

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 1:05 PM

You read that right. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker has dismissed a lawsuit in San Francisco's federal courthouse against the U.S. government, stating in his ruling that the plaintiffs' complaint that they were illegally monitored under the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program is shared by too many other American citizens.

click to enlarge spycartoon.jpg
At issue is the question of these folks' standing to pursue a claim against the government in federal court -- in other words, whether they represent a party or class of people who can legitimately sue. Vaughn ruled that they cannot, citing this line from the 2005 federal Seegers v Gonzales case: "[I]njuries that are shared and generalized -- such as the right to have the government act in accordance with the law -- are not sufficient to support standing."

Walker's ruling was just as significant for a question he chose not

to answer. The U.S. government asserted that the lawsuit should be

dismissed because it would disclose state secrets; in his order of

dismissal, the judge "declines to rule" on this claim, since the

standing issue was sufficient cause to toss the suit.

Walker's justification for dismissing the case may strike some as a classic cartwheel of legal reasoning. (The "right to

have the government act in accordance with the law" can't be upheld in

court?) In fairness, the ruling notes that the strict

standards for gauging plaintiffs' standing act as a

filter to prevent courts from being deluged with claims involving

social problems that are better aired and addressed through the

political process.

One might argue that the political debate that followed The New York Times' 2005 story on the illegal surveillance -- and eventual repudiation of Bush's party at the ballot box in 2008 -- did just that.

Photo   |   hughelectronic

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Peter Jamison

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