The U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to reject the option of a challenge in court to expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the U.S. government to get -- from a secret court -- interception of communication orders that would last for a year. Opponents of that expansion want the right to contest the expansion in court. But on Tuesday, the high court, by a 5-4 vote, said that's not an option.
The spurious rationale by the court's conservative majority is that because the FISA expansion only authorizes government surveillance, any U.S. citizen wanting to be a plaintiff can only speculate that the government will intercept their personal communications. In short, the court's majority is saying that there is no discernible proof that the government will monitor anyone other than a potential foreign terrorist or intelligence target.
Frankly, that's like saying because you don't have the information that the feds are spying, you can't challenge such surveillance in court. That strikes us as Orwellian reasoning.
What the decision does is insulate the feds from proper court review, and that lessons our constitutional guarantees of privacy. We're not opposed to the U.S. government investigating U.S. citizens who are suspected of acts that harm our nation. But these efforts need extensive review. The possibility that an innocent American can be harmed with the FISA expansion is not speculative; it's a possible consequence of the 2008 expansion.
As Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented, wrote, "We need only assume that the government is doing its job (to find out about, and combat terrorism) in order to conclude that there is a high probability that the government will intercept at least some electronic communication to which at some of the plaintiffs are party."
We have rights against over-intrusive policing. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, there has been a disturbing extension of law enforcement, at many levels, that intrude on personal rights. The Supreme Court needs to start respecting our personal liberties.