BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
Ashcroft appeals against ruling
John Ashcroft
The Justice Department says its hands are tied
The US Justice Department has appealed against a court ruling which, it says, restricts the scope of anti-terrorist investigators to co-ordinate surveillance operations.

It was reacting to a ruling by America's secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which was made public on Thursday.


They [the FISC] have in our view incorrectly interpreted the Patriot Act and the effect [will] limit the kind of co-ordination that we think is very important

Barbara Comstock
Justice Department
Ordering the Justice Department to alter its practices, the FISC said it was unacceptable for ordinary criminal police to get access to information gleaned from anti-terrorist wiretaps.

BBC correspondent Justin Webb says that Friday's appeal marks the first time a US administration has tried to overturn a FISC ruling.

The ruling was announced by the Senate Judiciary Committee and it was the first time a FISC ruling had been made public.

'Carte blanche'

Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said the 17 May ruling hampered the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

That act was broadened by sweeping new anti-terrorist legislation passed after the 11 September attacks - the USA Patriot Act.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Secret court set up in 1978 under the act of the same name
Believed to consist of between five and seven federal judges

In its ruling, the FISC rejected a request by Attorney General John Ashcroft for dozens of electronic surveillance permits, saying it had been misled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"They have in our view incorrectly interpreted the Patriot Act and the effect of that incorrect interpretation is to limit the kind of co-ordination that we think is very important," said Ms Comstock.

In its appeal, the Justice Department argued that its surveillance requests were legal because legislation had "never prescribed the kinds of efforts, law enforcement or otherwise, that may be used" in protecting America from foreign threats.

Civil liberties groups are hoping that the Justice Department's appeal will fail as they believe that Mr Ashcroft is using the new legislation to pry into the lives of US citizens in a manner that breaches their fundamental constitutional rights.

Our correspondent says that the issue of civil rights in the wake of 11 September is now reaching some of the highest courts in America.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

01 May 02 | Americas
06 Dec 01 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes