A Colorado man of Uzbek origin became the first defendant to challenge the constitutionality of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 (aka FAA) – the surveillance law that gives the United States government warrantless access to the international phone calls and emails of American citizens and residents.
Civil liberties groups call the FAA a breach of U.S. fundamental rights. Jamshid Muhtorov, a terror suspect, claimed that some of the evidence gathered against him through unauthorized surveillance was taken out of context to prove him guilty of the charges placed on him.
His attorneys questioned the National Security Agency’s authority to gathering information from phone and Internet providers in the U.S. when the people targeted are believed to be overseas.
Muhtorov, along with another man, was accused and later charged of having links to a terrorist organization two years ago.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues the FAA violates both the Fourth Amendment as well as Article III of the Constitution because it allows U.S. intelligence to break into a person’s account without prior notice.
Following is what the ACLU has put in the motion filed on Wednesday:
“The FAA violates the Fourth Amendment because it authorizes surveillance that violates the warrant clause and, independently, because it authorizes surveillance that is unreasonable. The statute also violates Article III by requiring judges to issue advisory opinions in the absence of a case or controversy. The procedural deficiencies of the FAA render the statute unconstitutional, and they render the surveillance of Mr. Muhtorov unconstitutional as well.”
Muhtorov’s case against the NSA surveillance is the first of its kind.
After months of revelations by Edward Snowden showing how the U.S. government spied on electronic communications at home and abroad, this is the first time ever that a defendant challenged the constitutionality of the 2008 amendment to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.