In 2008, a law was passed which allowed for the use of wiretapping in domestic criminal cases. The law permits agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap foreign phone and email conversations (without a warrant) when they involve American citizens.
Jamshid Muhtorov, a Colorado resident who hails from Uzbekistan, is facing criminal charges founded on evidence obtained during such wiretapping practices. Federal prosecutors claim that Muhtorov provided aid to a terrorist organization in his native country. He has recently filed a motion to suppress evidence on the grounds that these wiretapping practices are unconstitutional. If the motion to suppress is granted, it could reverse the 2008 law.
Currently, for wiretapping without a court order to be constitutional, at least one party involved in the communication has to be overseas. If all parties are communicating domestically, then the NSA must obtain a court order.
Privacy has been an area of concern particularly since last summer when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about government wiretapping programs, one of which is PRISM. With PRISM, the NSA issues secret court orders to Google, Facebook, and other technology companies to obtain private data to use in investigations.
According to Muhtorov's attorney, American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Jameel Jaffer, the NSA is using its permissions to tap foreign communications "as a pretext to monitor Americans here at home."
A presidential task force has recommended that the law be changed to restrict government agencies from keeping information on individuals obtained during wiretaps unless those individuals are related to a current investigation.
For more on this developing story, visit the Los Angeles Times.