Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 12:59 UK

US rejects wiretapping challenge

Man speaking on cellphone
A US judge rejects a challenge to overseas wiretapping

A US judge has rejected a challenge to a law that allows intelligence services to eavesdrop on overseas conversations to gather intelligence.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the US to monitor the calls and emails of non-US citizens abroad.

Human rights groups contended that their workers might be bugged for talking to people under surveillance.

But District Judge John Koeltl in New York said the mere fear of surveillance was not enough to bring a lawsuit.

Fears about the law's effect on them were "subjective", the judge added.

The judge said the organisations had not claimed that their communications had been monitored, or that the government had sought permission for such surveillance.

"The plaintiffs in this case have made no showing that they are subject to the statute they seek to challenge, and therefore have made no showing that they face a danger of being harmed," wrote Judge Koeltl.

The law was challenged by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, a group of international criminal defence lawyers and an organisation of women.

Jameel Jaffer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented them, said: "This statute allows the mass acquisition of Americans' international communications."

The ruling effectively meant that US citizens' privacy rights would be left to the mercy of politicians, he said.

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