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Judge rules NSA warrant-less surveilence is unconstitutional


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Judge Rules Terrorist Surveillance Program Unconstitutional

Thursday, August 17, 2006

 

DETROIT — 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 as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

 

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

 

Click here to read the judge's opinion (pdf).

 

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 listening to conversations between people in the U.S. 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 had already 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.

FoxNews version

 

The warrantless Internet and telephone surveillance program authorized by the Bush administration violates the U.S. Constitution and must cease immediately, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

 

The landmark decision makes U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's once-secret program. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the government, claiming the program "ran roughshod" over the constitutional rights of millions of Americans and ran afoul of federal wiretapping law.

 

In a sweeping victory for the ACLU and its clients, which included organizations representing criminal defense lawyers, journalists, Islamic-Americans, and academics, Taylor knocked down every major legal argument that the Bush Administration has used to defend the program since it was revealed by the New York Times last December.

 

The terrorist surveillance program, she ruled, violates the First Amendment's right to freedom of expression and the Fourth Amendment right to privacy--that is, freedom from unreasonable searches. It also ignores requirements of a 1978 electronic wiretapping law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and represents an overstepping of presidential powers, Taylor wrote.

 

The judge also dismissed the government's request that the suit be thrown out because of the "state secrets privilege," which permits the government to suppress a lawsuit that might lead to the disclosure of military secrets.

 

"We are enormously gratified with the court's historic ruling today," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a conference call with reporters. "At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms a system of checks and balances that's necessary in our democracy."

 

U.S. Department of Justice representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The government has, however, notified the ACLU of its intention to request a stay of Taylor's opinion while it files an appeal, ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said during the conference call.

 

Clients defended by ACLU in the suit praised the district court's decision, saying it would allow them carry out their professional duties without fear of being spied upon.

 

New York University Professor Barney Rubin, a plaintiff in the case who has authored several books on Afghanistan, said the ruling gave him "greater confidence" that he would be able to conduct interviews with subjects located in the nation considered a state sponsor of terror without worrying his conversations would be scooped up by the NSA.

 

"I'm extremely relieved to know that this court believes in the right of our clients, who are all people accused of crimes, to the confidentiality that has long believed to be essential to the criminal justice system," said Nancy Hollander, a New Mexico-based attorney who spoke on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

 

It wasn't immediately clear what impact the ruling will have on a number of other cases challenging the legality of the NSA program. On July 20, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed the government's assertion of the state secrets privilege and ruled that a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, against AT&T could proceed--a move that the government readily appealed.

 

Five days later, however, a federal judge in Chicago granted the Justice Department's request to throw out another suit related to the NSA program brought by the ACLU.

 

A number of congressional proposals also seek to broaden wiretapping law, essentially making the existing NSA program legal. One a controversial bill endorsed by the Bush Administration proposes moving all cases disputing electronic surveillance programs to a secret court.

 

The ACLU said it was confident that the constitutional arguments raised by Taylor's opinion would prompt the politicians to rethink taking such steps. "Members of Congress have taken oath to uphold the Constitution," said ACLU Legislative Director Caroline Fredrickson, "and they're going to have to take this decision very seriously."

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," the judge wrote in her 44-page opinion (click here for PDF). More details to follow.

CNET version

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It's not a surprise to me that the program was ruled unconstitutional.

 

Unlike the USSR, the United States government isn't allowed to use 'state secrets' as a justification for spying on Americans.

 

I disagree that it is just a victory for the ACLU. It's a victory for all Americans, period.

 

Sorry, Dubya.

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It's not a surprise to me that the program was ruled unconstitutional.

 

Unlike the USSR, the United States government isn't allowed to use 'state secrets' as a justification for spying on Americans.

 

I disagree that it is just a victory for the ACLU. It's a victory for all Americans, period.

 

Sorry, Dubya.

 

 

 

Yup, especially Americans and people in America who are planning terrorist attacks. This is a worthless ruling anyway, it just gets the wheels turning on an issue that will eventually be heard by the supreme court

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I never thought legacy would come out in favor of something like this.

 

 

No I'm actually playing devil's advocate. For some reason I get annoyed b ythe way GM responds to things. My actual opinion is that FISA protections along with information sharing among law enforcement agencies is enough and there is no need to expand any of this. Even if it is good for the war on terror it sets a precedent for future executives to possibly use these ability in ways that are detrminental to our freedom

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I never thought legacy would come out in favor of something like this.

 

 

No I'm actually playing devil's advocate. For some reason I get annoyed b ythe way GM responds to things. My actual opinion is that FISA protections along with information sharing among law enforcement agencies is enough and there is no need to expand any of this. Even if it is good for the war on terror it sets a precedent for future executives to possibly use these ability in ways that are detrminental to our freedom

What, I can't make a passionate argument? I'm just tired of the administration using national security to justify just about anything they do.

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I never thought legacy would come out in favor of something like this.

 

 

No I'm actually playing devil's advocate. For some reason I get annoyed b ythe way GM responds to things. My actual opinion is that FISA protections along with information sharing among law enforcement agencies is enough and there is no need to expand any of this. Even if it is good for the war on terror it sets a precedent for future executives to possibly use these ability in ways that are detrminental to our freedom

What, I can't make a passionate argument? I'm just tired of the administration using national security to justify just about anything they do.

 

 

Its nothing personal, it sjust that too often you argue with facts that are not definitive and you present them as givens, so i like to counter those arguments with the opposing facts to stir discussion

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Its also unconstitutional when we do not protect the safety of the american people. Lets just keep going back to the pre 911 thinking. Yeah once again the ACLU and a lib judge win.

 

This is not pre-9/11 thinking. Wiretapping has been done perfectly legally in the past by going through the FISA court, which was created just for that reason. Bush had no justification for bypassing the court, which has only turned down 4 wiretapping requests in the 28 years since it was created.

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Its also unconstitutional when we do not protect the safety of the american people. Lets just keep going back to the pre 911 thinking. Yeah once again the ACLU and a lib judge win.

 

This is not pre-9/11 thinking. Wiretapping has been done perfectly legally in the past by going through the FISA court, which was created just for that reason. Bush had no justification for bypassing the court, which has only turned down 4 wiretapping requests in the 28 years since it was created.

exactly...there was nothing wrong with the way it was...and to bald eagle...unconstitutional to not protect the american people? i know its a different topic...but if the constitution cared about the average, everyday american...then the 2nd amendment would have been banned long ago...this is an issue of whether or not bush can turn the country's police agencies into the gestapo

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Its also unconstitutional when we do not protect the safety of the american people. Lets just keep going back to the pre 911 thinking. Yeah once again the ACLU and a lib judge win.

 

 

?They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security?. Ben Franklin

 

 

But I guess Franklin wasnt a Patriot

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The judge accomplished nothing other than further enforcing the notion that democrats are weak on national security.

 

or high on civil rights...but hey...pissing on the bill of rights is perfectly acceptable

 

of course it is because the founding fathers of this country werent patriots according to the bush white house.

 

They believed in seperation of powers and the constitution and bill of rights. Where Bush has made the executive office single handedly the most totalitarian ever.

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The claim that Democrats are weak on national security is a bunch of B.S.

 

It's pretty hard to get anything done for your party when the opposing party has control over all three parts of government.

 

Plus, John Murtha discovered the problem with 40,000 soldiers not having any body armor that were deployed to Iraq. Shortly after, he pushed forward legislation to increase the armor on Humvees, as an attempt to protect our soldiers.

 

Dems have no power right now, so it's stupid to blame them for things they can't control.

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The claim that Democrats are weak on national security is a bunch of B.S.

 

It's pretty hard to get anything done for your party when the opposing party has control over all three parts of government.

 

Plus, John Murtha discovered the problem with 40,000 soldiers not having any body armor that were deployed to Iraq. Shortly after, he pushed forward legislation to increase the armor on Humvees, as an attempt to protect our soldiers.

 

Dems have no power right now, so it's stupid to blame them for things they can't control.

 

This was a democract-appointed judge who made the ruling, so obviously they do have power.

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The claim that Democrats are weak on national security is a bunch of B.S.

 

It's pretty hard to get anything done for your party when the opposing party has control over all three parts of government.

 

Plus, John Murtha discovered the problem with 40,000 soldiers not having any body armor that were deployed to Iraq. Shortly after, he pushed forward legislation to increase the armor on Humvees, as an attempt to protect our soldiers.

 

Dems have no power right now, so it's stupid to blame them for things they can't control.

 

This was a democract-appointed judge who made the ruling, so obviously they do have power.

if you see this is as democrat v. republican issue than you my friend need to realize that this is an issue of protected rights for all americans, whether you are dem, rep, bi, gay, straight, single, married, christian, muslim, jewish, etc...and i dont care who is in power, im not giving up my rights to anyone...period

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Guest Juanky

This was a democract-appointed judge who made the ruling, so obviously they do have power.

This judge wasn't elected, so their political leanings aren't of consequence.

 

Instead, this was a ruling based on the Constitution and precedent.

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I'm sorry, but I'm convinced that Accord would prefer a dictatorship to democracy, as long as he gets to keep his guns.

 

:thumbdown

Admit it, if the Bill of Rights ceased to exist, you would only miss the 2nd Amendment. :whistle

I'd miss them all except the 8th, this country needs some cruel and unusual punishment imposed on some of our worst ciminals.

 

And speaking of the Bill of Rights, I got to see it in person along with the Magna Carta, Constitution, and Declaration of Independance at the National Archives on Monday when I was in Washington.

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I'm sorry, but I'm convinced that Accord would prefer a dictatorship to democracy, as long as he gets to keep his guns.

 

:thumbdown

Admit it, if the Bill of Rights ceased to exist, you would only miss the 2nd Amendment. :whistle

I'd miss them all except the 8th, this country needs some cruel and unusual punishment imposed on some of our worst ciminals.

 

And speaking of the Bill of Rights, I got to see it in person along with the Magna Carta, Constitution, and Declaration of Independance at the National Archives on Monday when I was in Washington.

 

 

?They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security?. Ben Franklin

 

simply put the founders saw them as more important then the government itself. The point of the american government was different then most places. It was a government for the people at large not the people there for the government.

 

Sadly I think it has been forgotten.

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