Federal Judge Tosses Out Unlawful Surveillance Cases

gavel2The Obama Administration succeeded yesterday in getting three dozen public interest lawsuits dismissed against telecommunication companies. President Obama voted for the bill that gave the companies immunity and sought to prevent a court from declaring the warrantless surveillance program illegal. U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker also ordered investigations in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Missouri to be halted. However, he retained the issue of whether to sanction the Justice Department for its conduct in the case.

The dismissal of these cases should make people cringe next time President Obama or members of Congress say that they believe the courts should resolve constitutional questions. For much of the controversy under the Bush Administration, people like General Michael Hayden insisted that the program was clearly lawful despite the congressional testimony of many of us who called it a federal crime. However, once the issue was actually put in front of a federal court, both President Bush and President Obama pushed to take courts from ruling.
The lingering dispute with the Justice Department centers on a document accidentally turned over to the legal team of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in 2004 that allegedly show illegal interceptions. Walker ruled that that Al-Haramain’s lawyers were to be given access to the document since they had provided enough public government disclosures to support their eavesdropping claims. The Obama Administration expanded on the state secrets filings to stop such disclosure and even threatened to remove the document from the court docket.

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28 thoughts on “Federal Judge Tosses Out Unlawful Surveillance Cases”

  1. There are things going on right now that would make good, decent Americans shudder. When will they be exposed and stopped? Judge Walker’s ruling is a light in the darkness. (Refer to the following editorial.)

    NY Time Editorial: We Can’t Tell You
    Published: April 3, 2010


    (begin quote): The chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, ruled last week that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was the law of the land for Mr. Bush and that when the government failed to get a warrant to wiretap, it broke the law. He also said that the government could not evade accountability with absurdly broad claims of state secrets.

    This ruling does not end warrantless wiretapping. The particular program The Times uncovered has been suspended; there are still others, however, and the 2008 FISA amendments permit warrantless spying. (end quote)

    I will restate a portion of the last statement because it is critically important:

    “The particular program The Times uncovered has been suspended; there are still others…”

    “There are still others.”

    There are.

  2. Here is some news today on the Fourth Amendment and the al-Haramain case in this thread. The District Court granted summary judgment to the lawyers whose phones were tapped without a warrant.

    In re: National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litigation


    From the AP

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant.

    U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs have provided enough evidence to show ”they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance.”

    At issue was a 2006 lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program. The lawsuit was filed by the Ashland, Ore. branch of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and two American lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor.

    Belew and Ghafoor claimed their 2004 phone conversation with a foundation official, Soliman al-Buthi, was wiretapped soon after the Treasury Department had declared the charity branch a supporter of terrorism.

    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the lawsuit threatens to expose ongoing intelligence work and must be thrown out.

  3. Jill:

    “That was rather sweet about the song (hope I’m not embarrassing you).”

    Nope! Admitting that I liked those crazy 1950s/60s novelty songs–like my earlier admission of a favorite entitled ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’–is self-embarassin’ enough.

    In fact, I am listening to MBWCB right now…

    ”he had a backless boomerang, so here he could not stay…this is nice innit? Gittin’ banished at my time in life, what a way to spend an evening, sittin’ on a rock in the middle of the desert with me boomerang in me hand…”

    I wonder, is that the fate of people who are banished from the Turley blawg? Best be nice girls ‘n boys…

    M72, that camel sure had a lot of silver bling.

  4. “Before I assert my disappointment with Obama, let me say, what his administration will bring to the country is still 180 degrees in the positive direction, in contrast to Bush.”

    Thank you. My contention is that there is no one who could be elected President who will satisfy all partisans all the time. President Obama is nowhere near as left wing as I am in economic terms. However, I would find things to dispute with everyone on the political scene if they became President. The
    triage of their agenda’s would also not coincide with mine. After 5 months though, I personally am happy with my vote and with the general direction this administration has taken. When I have disagreements I voice them here and to my elected representatives. I have far more agreement with this administration though, than with any in the last 44 years.

  5. Mike A.,
    Excellent discussion of the reasons why the FISA amendment was unconstitutional. I especially like your comment about the political reasons why the law should be ruled unconstitutional.
    Former Fed,
    I haven’t heard Ahab the Arab in a very long time. Boy, am I getting old if I can remember that one.

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