The judge's dismissals of most of the lawsuits were widely expected after Congress in July 2008 agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants. Walker also upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules, but lawyers representing the telecom customers said that they would appeal the judge's ruling.
Additionally, the judge said that congressional actions didn't prohibit telephone and e-mail customers who believe they were targets of warrantless wiretaps from suing federal government officials, whom he called "the primary actors in the alleged wiretapping activities."
Walker noted that several lawsuits that directly accuse the government, rather than the companies, of wrongdoing are still pending.
Medical records were targeted for inclusion along with credit card and other electronic transactions as data feed stock for a proposed massive surveillance technology development program called Total Information Awareness, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to Defense Department records. The program was stripped of funding by Congress in 2003, but elements of Total Information Awareness were continued elsewhere by the intelligence community, according to a government-funded panel looking into the privacy and legal implications of the program. The question of whether the government actually tapped into EHRs as part of the war on terror was the subject of a series of articles in Modern Healthcare and Health IT Strategist published in October 2008.
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