View Full Version : NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Ruled Unconstitutional

08-17-2006, 04:28 PM
NSA eavesdropping program ruled unconstitutional
Justice Department says it will appeal judge's decision


Thursday, August 17, 2006; Posted: 3:06 p.m. EDT (19:06 GMT)

(CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. government's domestic eavesdropping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling, saying the program was "a critical tool that ensures we have in place an early warning system to detect and prevent a terrorist attack."

In a 44-page memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, -- who is based in Detroit, Michigan -- struck down the National Security Agency's program, which she said violates the rights to free speech and privacy. (Read the complete ruling -- PDF)

The defendants "are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and Internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III," she wrote.

She further declared that the program "violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III."

She went on to say that "the president of the United States ... has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders."

In its statement announcing the appeal, the Justice Department rejected the judge's reasoning.

"In the ongoing conflict with al Qaeda and its allies, the president has the primary duty under the Constitution to protect the American people," the Justice Department said. "The Constitution gives the president the full authority necessary to carry out that solemn duty, and we believe the program is lawful and protects civil liberties."

The lawsuit, filed January 17 by civil rights organizations, lawyers, journalists and educators, "challenges the constitutionality of a secret government program to intercept vast quantities of the international telephone and Internet communications of innocent Americans without court approval."

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Plaintiffs included branches of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Washington and Detroit branches of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Greenpeace.

The judge in the case, Taylor, 75, has been on the Eastern District of Michigan bench since 1979. Appointed by President Carter, she became one of the first African-American women to sit on a federal court.

Program under scrutiny
Electronic surveillance programs run by the NSA have been under fire since December, when The New York Times disclosed that the government was listening in -- without first obtaining a court order -- on international phone calls involving people suspected of having ties to terrorists.

Some legal scholars said the program is an illegal and unwarranted intrusion on Americans' privacy, but the Bush administration defended it as a necessary tool in the battle against al Qaeda.

Opinion polls suggest the U.S. public has been divided on the NSA program. A CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on May 16-17 found that 50 percent of the respondents believe the program was "wrong," while 44 percent believe it was "right." The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

The plaintiffs alleged their communications with parties outside the country were being monitored by the NSA's wiretapping program. The complaint said the NSA's surveillance disrupts "the ability of the plaintiffs to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship and engage in advocacy."

On May 26, instead of responding to arguments attacking the legality of the NSA's eavesdropping program, the government filed for dismissal of the case, citing the "U.S. military and state secrets privilege" and arguing the government would not be able to defend the domestic spying program without disclosing classified information.

ACLU official calls ruling 'landmark victory'
"Today's ruling is a landmark victory against the abuse of power that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration," said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive director.

"Government spying on innocent Americans without any kind of warrant and without congressional approval runs counter to the very foundations of our democracy. We hope that Congress follows the lead of the court and demands that the president adhere to the rule of law."

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, called the ruling "a strong rebuke of this administration's illegal wiretapping program.

"The president must return to the Constitution and follow the statutes passed by Congress," he said in a statement. "We all want our government to monitor suspected terrorists, but there is no reason for it to break the law to do so."

Also in a statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said, "This has become another unfortunate example of how White House misdirection, arrogance and mismanagement have needlessly complicated our goal of protecting the American people.

"By following the Constitution and our laws, we can protect both our security and our American values," said Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, said he backs the government's appeal of the ruling.

"Terrorists are the real threat to our constitutional and democratic freedoms, not the law enforcement and intelligence tools used to keep America safe," Frist said in a statement.

"We need to strengthen, not weaken, our ability to foil terrorist plots before they can do us harm. I encourage swift appeal by the government and quick reversal of this unfortunate decision."

In July, Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the White House agreed to submit the program to the FISA court for review.

Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and the White House said they would support legislation that would consolidate about 30 lawsuits filed against the government, transferring them to the FISA court so there would be a single forum in which to litigate them.

But the legislation has not passed through the Judiciary Committee, let alone the Senate, and it may never be approved, as Democrats have raised objections to a number of its key components.

Specter was in India and not immediately available for comment on the ruling.

Cloak & Swagger
08-17-2006, 06:07 PM
Then of course, the crazy ass neocons are calling this a victory for the terrorists.
Is there no end to their insanity!?

08-17-2006, 06:14 PM
How much you wanna bet there isn't another "Terrorist Scare" in a few days?

08-17-2006, 06:16 PM
How much you wanna bet there isn't another "Terrorist Scare" in a few days?

We shall see.

08-17-2006, 06:42 PM
We've uncovered a plot to take bars of soap on planes, carve them to look like guns, then hijack the plane and crash it into a petting zoo in Nebraska.