The decision blocking the lawsuit drew immediate criticism.
Peter Godwin, president of the PEN American Center, called the opinion “a Kafkaesque holding that puts writers, journalists, human rights workers on notice that the US government can look over their shoulders anywhere in the world and there is nothing they can do about it.”
“This ruling insulates the statute from meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case in October.
The decision stems from a constitutional challenge to a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of various groups and individuals – including four lawyers, human rights workers with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and two journalists working for The Nation magazine.
The plaintiffs said the law insulates the government’s surveillance activities from meaningful judicial review.
The 2008 surveillance law is intended to enable the US government to detect and track the messages of would-be terrorists. Critics say it is overly broad and sweeps in private communications of Americans who may be in contact with potential targets of US surveillance.