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Foes Of Electronic Spying May Have A New Way To Challenge It

Publication Date: 
November 24, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle
Bob Egelko

Lecturer in Law and Executive Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center Derek Shaffer is quoted in a San Francisco Chronicle article about unresolved legal issues around electronic wiretapping:

It's a difficult issue, said Derek Shaffer, executive director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center. The group is not involved in the Al-Haramain case but has filed arguments supporting another suit, pending before the Ninth Circuit, on behalf of customers of AT&T who accuse the company of collaborating in the Bush administration's surveillance program.

Shaffer said the Justice Department has a strong argument that Congress wasn't thinking of civil cases when it passed the 1978 law. On the other hand, he said, courts should remember that Congress enacted the law in response to revelations of decades of unchecked, politically motivated domestic surveillance.

"If all this is beyond inquiry, we will never have a meaningful system of checks and balances," Shaffer said. If courts conclude they lack the power to decide whether the surveillance program is legal, he said, they will convey "an important lesson about a blind spot in our system of government."