Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Shrinking the Calling Circle

Posted by Charles II on May 31, 2009

David Kravets, Wired (via t/o)

San Francisco – The Obama administration has until Friday to convince a federal judge not to levy sanctions against the government for “failing to obey the court’s orders” in a key NSA wiretapping lawsuit.

    U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is threatening to summarily decide the 3-year-old lawsuit in favor of the plaintiffs, and award unspecified monetary damages to two American lawyers who claim their telephone calls were illegally intercepted by the NSA under the Bush administration. The lawyer represented a now-defunct Saudi charity that the Treasury Department claimed was linked to terrorism.

    If it survived appeal, such a ruling would be a blow to the government, but it would fall far short of deciding the important question the case asks: Can a sitting president, without congressional authority, create a spying program to eavesdrop on Americans’ electronic communications without warrants, as George W. Bush did in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks?


    That legislation allows electronic eavesdropping of Americans without obtaining a warrant if the subjects of the wiretap are communicating overseas with somebody believed connected to terrorism.

    No such congressional authority was in place when lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Gafoor’s telephone calls were intercepted in 2005. The United States had designated the Al-Haramain charity a terror organization.

    The legislation authorizing the spy powers also immunized the telcos from being sued for their part in Bush’s eavesdropping program. Walker is entertaining a constitutional challenge to the immunity legislation.

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