Federal Court: Bush and Obama Bypassing of FISA Ruled Illegal
Federal Justice Vaughnn Walker Rules Bush and Obama Warrantless Wiretapping and bypassing FISA broke Federal Law
Al-Haramain Ilslamic Foundation attorneys illegally probed in domestic spying program ; Expanded Powers post 9-11 not justified
On Wednesday a federal judge ruled that under the Bush Administration's anti-terror program, federal law was violated when two Oregon attorneys working for an Islamic charity were wire-tapped without warrant.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker - the judge in the famous historic Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco's high court - rejected statements set forth by both Presidents Bush and Obama that state secrets privilege shields them from lawsuits filed by American citizens who had been probed and tapped under a controversial Patriot Act domestic spying program launched after 9/11.
Government lawyers are reviewing the ruling, and it is unclear at this time whether or not President Obama will decide to appeal.
Barring an appeal, this ruling will enable the attorneys of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation to pursue monetary damages under federal law which protects from illegal wiretapping and surveillance.
Al-Haramain was placed under surveillance after Sept. 11, 2001. Law enforcement officials did so without seeking a warrant from the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
Post 9-11 Patriot Act and War on Terror overstepped bounds, Federal Justice says
The Bush administration justified bypassing the FISA statute due to its post-9/11 "War on Terror". It wanted the lawsuit dismissed on grounds of national security morale.
The Obama Administration surprised and angered civil libertarians when it called for a continuation of Bush's claims ; most advocates had expected Obama would diverge from the policy
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have repeatedly attempted to take the government to trial over warrantless wiretapping but have been thwarted by federal court rulings that they lacked standing to sue unless their individual privacy rights had been violated.
In his 45-page ruling, Walker alluded to the "obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching inherent in the defendants' theory of unfettered executive-branch discretion." The judge also cited the government's "impressive display of argumentative acrobatics" in rationalizing its actions.
Jon Eisenberg, attorney for the foundation and lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, hailed the ruling of Justice Walker as rejecting the Bush administration's claims to expanded powers in the war on terror and the Obama administration's continued support of that policy.
Constitutional law experts emphasized that attorneys of both Bush and Obama did not attempt to dispute charges of warrant-less surveillance. They claimed only that it was justified under the war on terror. The by-passing of the FISA statutes is key in this case.
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New York, United States