Government Surveillance of Attorney-Client Communications: Invoked in the Name of Fighting Terrorism
Ellen S. Podgor
Stetson University College of Law
John Wesley Hall
Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 17, No. 1
This essay provides a critical analysis of Attorney General Ashcroft's Order permitting the government to monitor attorney-client conversations in prison. It provides a summary of the Order, the responses to the Order, and discusses ongoing litigation that contests the Order. The Essay also provides, as background, the contextual setting that allows for monitoring under existing provisions in Title III and FISA. After examining the constitutional issues emanating from Ashcroft's Order permitting attorney-client monitoring in prison, there is a discussion of the implications to the Attorney-Client and Work Product Privileges. Of particular focus is the ethical responsibilities of counsel when maintaining contact with a client when monitoring may be occurring. The Essay considers the importance of finding an appropriate balance between civil liberties and national security, but maintains that the Attorney General should not be permitted to disregard constitutional rights, the attorney-client privilege and the ethical responsibilities of attorneys, claiming that these measures are necessary to fight terrorism.
JEL Classification: K14
Date posted: September 24, 2003