A landmark legal showdown over how much authority the U.S. president has to wiretap the communications of American citizens without congressional or judicial approval played out this afternoon in a Cincinnati courtroom.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Security Agency (NSA) appeared today before a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals at the federal courthouse downtown. The ACLU wants the court to affirm an August ruling by a federal judge that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Bush began the program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said it’s a vital method for monitoring communications between terrorist groups overseas and their agents within the United States.
The appellate court’s decision will have national significance and constitutional ramifications involving the president’s wartime authority and separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.
The courtroom was filled today with a capacity crowd of national media and legal observers, and the overflow was led to another room with a live video feed of the proceedings.