Court Rejects Government's Executive Power Claims and Rules That Warrantless Wiretapping Violated Law

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on March 31, 2010

Follow up to previous postings on the Domestic Surveillance Program, via EFF, Kevin Bankston: “Today, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court in San Francisco found that the government illegally wiretapped an Islamic charity’s phone calls in 2004, granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs in Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama. The court held the government liable for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Today’s order is the first decision since ACLU v. NSA to hold that warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency was illegal. The decision in ACLU v. NSA was overturned on other grounds in 2007, and the focus of the government’s litigation strategy since then has been to avoid having any court rule on the merits of the issue. The court’s thorough decision is a strong rebuke to the government’s argument that only the Executive Branch may determine if a case against the government can proceed in the courts, by invoking state secrets. The Obama Administration adopted this “state secrets privilege” theory from the Bush Administration’s legal positions in this and other warrantless wiretapping cases.”

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