U.S. Judge Nixes Warrantless Wiretaps

Orders Immediate Halt To NSA Surveillance Program

(CBS/AP) A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency’s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

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The judge granted an injunction to stop the program and found the government has not sustained its claim of “state secrets,” except as to data mining, CBS News producer Beverly Lumpkin reports.

The ruling concludes: “Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the United States and people in other countries.

The government argued that the program is well within the president’s authority, but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.

The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule on the case.

“By holding that even the president is not above the law, the court has done its duty,” said Ann Beeson, the ACLU’s associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The NSA had no immediate comment on the ruling.

Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the ACLU over data-mining of phone records by the NSA. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation could jeopardize state secrets.

In the decision, Judge Taylor quotes Justice Earl Warren from the 1967 case, U.S. v Robel, Lumpkin reports.

“Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. … It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of … those liberties … which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile,” Taylor wrote.

Read the district court opinionPDF file

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via CBS News, USA
Aug. 17, 2006
www.cbsnews.com
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday August 17, 2006.
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