The 9th Circuit Affirms Immunity for Telecoms is Constitutional

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Overview

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the lower court holding that The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008 is constitutional (see In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litigation v. AT&T Corp., 9th Cir., 09-16676, 12/29/11). The appeal addressed the 33 consolidated lawsuits filed against AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf their customers.

The facts of the case centered around the National Security Agency (NSA) "Terrorist Surveillance Program" which allegedly carried out warrantless wiretaps with the assistance of telecommunications companies. Telecommunications company liability was at issue until the FISA was amended granting these companies immunity. This appeal, heard by a three judge panel, raised due process rights and violations of the separation of powers issues but the act was found to be constitutional on its face. One of the plaintiff's lawyers, Kurt Opsahl, Senior Staff Attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was discouraged by the result stating "It is disappointing that today’s decision endorsed the rights of telecommunications companies over those over their customers.”

Hepting v. At & T Corp. Caselaw History (one of many consolidated cases)

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