Rocky headline misleadingly stated, "Appeals court: NSA warrantless wiretaps OK"


An editorial page headline in the July 9 edition of the Rocky Mountain News (accessed through the electronic edition) misleadingly suggested that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit had ruled that "warrantless wiretaps [are] OK" when conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) on U.S. soil. The headline appeared in the "Hot Topics" column above excerpts about the appeals court's July 6 decision. In fact, as the full content of the July 6 article excerpted by the News indicated, the appeals court did not rule on the merits of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but instead held that the plaintiffs -- journalists, academics, and lawyers who alleged that they "had a 'well founded belief' " they are being spied upon -- lacked standing to bring the suit against the NSA for its program.

From the "Hot Topics" column in the July 9 edition of the Rocky Mountain News:

Appeals court: NSA warrantless wiretaps OK

The plaintiffs in the case ... argued that it was likely that their calls had been spied on and that the possibility their conversations might be snooped on produced a "chilling effect" -- essentially making them self-censor themselves.

The Sixth Circuit's 2-1 majority decision, written by Judge Alice Batchelder, says that's not enough for the plaintiffs to have the right to sue the government over the program, and sent the case back down to the district court for dismissal.


Contrary to the News' headline stating that the court had ruled that "warrantless wiretaps [are] OK," the article further reported:

A federal appeals court threw out a ruling that the government's warrant-free spy program was unconstitutional Friday, finding that the ACLU's plaintiffs had no standing to bring suit against the National Security Agency program since they couldn't prove they were spied upon.

That program, revealed in December 2005 by the New York Times, eavesdropped on certain emails and phone calls that involved Americans on American soil conversing internationally with persons the government said it had some reason to suspect had ties to terrorism.

The appeals court's decision covered an August 17, 2006, ruling by Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor that the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal and unconstitutional.

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