9th Circuit: Sovereign immunity protects U.S. in FISA suit by Islamic charity

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In a decision handed down on Tuesday [August 7, 2012], the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a claim by an Islamic Foundation for damages from alleged warrantless electronic surveillance in 2004 in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  In Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama,  (9th Cir., Aug. 7, 2012), the court held that  the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity for suits under 18 USC Sec. 1810 for wrongful collection of information, even though it has done so as to suits under other portions of FISA for wrongful use and disclosure of the information.  The court also held that plaintiffs had made insufficient allegations against FBI director Robert Mueller to find personal liability on his part for the surveillance.  The result of the court’s holding was the reversal of the trial court’ award of $2.5 million in attorneys’ fees, as well as its award of comparatively small amounts in statutory damages. The Recorder reports on the decision.