An appeals court in the United States has dismissed a legal challenge to the government's monitoring of telephone and e-mail contacts between Americans and suspected terrorists outside the country.

In a divided (2-1) ruling Friday, the court said those trying to end the eavesdropping program cannot establish whether the government violated their free-speech rights and privacy, so there is no legal standing for their lawsuit.

President Bush authorized the domestic surveillance program after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington six years ago, ordering the National Security Agency to monitor international communications between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad.  The administration argues it needs to do all it can to uncover terrorist activity following the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Friday's appellate court ruling in Ohio vacated an order last year by a lower court in Detroit that found the warrantless eavesdropping program violates citizens' freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit on behalf of groups of lawyers, journalists, scholars and others who say their work has been impeded by the NSA's activity and notoriety surrounding the antiterrorist program.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.