WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Aug 2009 | News

WOLA Disappointed in Federal Court’s Dismissal of ACLU Challenge to Unconstitutional Spying Law

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) expresses its deep disappointment with the recent ruling of U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koetl to dismiss a landmark lawsuit filed by the ACLU to challenge the FISA Amendments Act (FAA).  The FAA gives the executive branch of the US Government nearly unchecked powers to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications.  The suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of a coalition of attorneys and civil society organizations, including WOLA, whose work is greatly compromised by the FISA. 

”We are very concerned by this ruling,” expressed WOLA’s Executive Director Joy Olson.  “Much of our ability to conduct sensitive human rights work in Latin America is contingent upon our private communications.  Our colleagues in the region have a well founded fear that emails and phones calls secretly monitored by the US Government could put them at risk.  This fear severely restricts our work, as our means of secure communication with our partners in the region are limited.”

Judge Koetl dismissed the case, ruling that plaintiffs failed to prove with certainty that they had been spied on or subject to the FAA.  According to the ACLU’s lead attorney on the case, Jameeel Jaffer, “the vast majority of people whose communications are intercepted under this statute will never know about it – in fact it's possible that no one will ever be able to make the showing that the court says is required.”  

The Washington Office on Latin America urges Congress to take up a meaningful oversight of executive spying and to repeal the broad powers given to the executive in FISA that threaten individual rights.

Along with WOLA, the plaintiffs in the case Amnesty v. Blair include:   The Nation and its contributing journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, Amnesty International USA, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, Defense attorneys Dan Arshack, David Nevin, Scott McKay and Sylvia Royce.


Vicki Gass, Senior Associate, Washington Office on Latin America
202-797-2171, vgass@wola.org

Rachel Meyers, Communications, ACLU
212 549 2689 or 646 206 8643, rmyers@aclu.org