COURT SAYS U.S. SPY AGENCY CAN TAP OVERSEAS MESSAGES
By DAVID BURNHAM, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (NYT) 1051 words Published: November 7, 1982
A Federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents, and then provide summaries of these messages to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Because the National Security Agency is among the largest and most secretive intelligence agencies and because millions of electronic messages enter and leave the United States each day, lawyers familiar with the intelligence agency consider the decision to mark a significant increase in the legal authority of the Government to keep track of its citizens.
Reverses 1979 Ruling
The Oct. 21 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit involves the Government's surveillance of a Michiganborn lawyer, Abdeen Jabara, who for many years has represented Arab-American citizens and alien residents in court. Some of his clients had been investigated by the F.B.I.
Mr. Jabara sued the F.B.I, and the National Security Agency, and in 1979 Federal District Judge Ralph M. Freeman ruled that the agency's acquisition of several of Mr. Jabara's overseas messages violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of ''unreasonable searches and seizures.'' Last month's decision reverses that ruling.
In earlier court proceedings, the F.B.I. acknowledged that it then disseminated the information to 17 other law-enforcement or intelligence agencies and three foreign governments.
The opinion of the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals held, ''The simple fact remains that the N.S.A. lawfully acquired Jabara's messages.''
The court ruled further that the lawyer's Fourth Amendment rights ''were not violated when summaries of his overseas telegraphic messages'' were furnished to the investigative bureau ''irrespective of whether there was reasonable cause to believe that he was a foreign agent.''