The U.S. government is refusing to disclose details about its surveillance investigations that could ultimately lead to a constitutional challenge of the National Security Agency’s programs.
The details concern the federal court case of Adel Daoud, a 19-year-old from Chicago, who is accused of attempting a bomb attack outside a bar in 2012. That same year, the FISA Amendments Act — which permits the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs — was up for reconsideration. Dianne Feinstein, a California Senator, defended the act and claimed it was being used to prevent a bomb threat in a Chicago bar, according to the Washington Post.
But now that Daoud and his lawyers want to know if the government used the law to justify spying on him and to gather evidence to convict him, the government is refusing to confirm or deny its activities, or comment on Feinstein’s statement, according to the Newser.
If the government admitted to using the law to spy on Daoud, the act could be reviewed in the criminal case and a constitutional challenge to it could arise. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law, claiming that the lawyers, journalists and human rights advocates opposing it could not sue because they had no proof of wiretapping or collecting of email and phone call content by the government.
The NSA’s surveillance program has grown increasingly controversial in recent months, as Edward Snowden, a former contractor, leaked information from the NSA about its intrusive and extensive surveillance techniques. Snowden criticized the programs as a breach of American privacy and a violation of American civil liberties.
Alex Abdo, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the FISA Act in 1978 originally forced the government to tell defendants if surveillance programs under the law were used to develop evidence against them. He said the court should make the government stick to this law.
“The most troubling part of the case is the government seems to be trying to hide the ball,” Abdo said. “They told the Supreme Court not to worry about reviewing the FISA Amendments Act because it would get reviewed in a criminal case. They said if they used the evidence in a criminal case, they’d give notice. Now they’re telling criminal defendants they don’t have to tell them.”