Supreme Court May Soon Rule on Legality of Warrantless Surveillance
Published on 11/01/2013 -
By John Clark
The Supreme Court may soon rule on the legality of warrantless government surveillance, thanks to a unique admission this week from the Justice Department.
According to a report from ABC News, officials from the Justice Department recently told an accused terrorist that the government plans to use evidence it captured though a warrantless surveillance program, which could prompt a sudden change in criminal law.
Justice Department Admits Potential Violation of Criminal Law
The unique admission took place in the trial of Jamshid Muhtorov, who was accused of providing support to an Uzbek terrorist group called Islamic Jihad Union, which is currently embroiled in a conflict with American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
This week, in a surprise court filing, the government candidly admitted that it planned to information “obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.”
This Act has been unsuccessfully challenged by several plaintiffs over the years. In this particular case, the FBI reportedly gathered email communications from two different accounts used by Muhtorov, according to sources.
In addition, the FBI collected information by tapping the suspect’s phone, and discovered through his email that he was “ready for any task, even with the risk of dying.” None of this surveillance, however, was authorized by a court warrant.
Justice Department Admission Sets Stage for Supreme Court Battle
The American government’s use of warrantless surveillance has been a hot topic in the American press, and rightfully so. Last year, the Supreme Court dismissed a case in which U.S. citizens challenged the government’s authority to monitor communications of foreigners without a warrant.
The Supreme Court said the plaintiffs in that case failed to prove the government would us the 1978 law to actually spy on American citizens.
But sources believe the recent Justice Department decision could spur a new battle between criminal defense attorneys in the nation’s highest court. And this position is strengthened by another unique admission.
Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who agreed to dismiss the prior surveillance case, admitted that the judicial system would eventually have to determine whether the surveillance program is legal. This could happen very soon.
Of course, if the Muhtorov case does reach the Supreme Court, he certainly won’t be the most sympathetic test case.
Sources say the group he is accused of aiding was responsible for suicide bombings that killed dozens of people at the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan.
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