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Federal Judge Orders End to NSA WiretappingBy: Michael Hayes (Courtesy of XBIZ.com)
Detroit — The National Security Agency (NSA) will no longer be able to conduct domestic eavesdropping, according to a ruling by federal judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who said the Bush administration’s actions contravened a range of constitutional provisions, including the right to free speech, protections against unreasonable searches and separation of powers.
In a 44-page decision, Taylor ruled in favor of a host of plaintiffs that included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Associated Press, who filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the government program that conducted surveillance on American citizens without judicial oversight.
According to Taylor, the plaintiffs were able to show that the public interest — upholding the constitution — was paramount to the Bush administration’s claim that the NSA program was a vital part of national security.
“[The defendants] are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program 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,” Taylor said.
Taylor also took aim at Bush directly for his role in the surveillance program, saying, “The president of the United States has undisputedly violated the 4th Amendment in failing to procure judicial orders.”
“By holding that even the President is not above the law, the court has done its duty," ACLU lead attorney Ann Beeson said.
The ruling marks a serious setback for the Bush administration, which defended the NSA program as a vital tool in the war on terror.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the ruling “a landmark victory against the abuse of power that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration.”
White House spokesman Dana Perino declined comment.
The NSA had no immediate comment on the ruling.
Bush ordered the NSA to begin warrantless surveillance in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. The NSA program came to light in December when the New York Times broke the story. Since that time, Congress has debated whether to place the NSA surveillance program under court supervision.
Separate U.S. government intelligence gathering operations, covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, fall under the jurisdiction of a secret court which has the power to issue warrants.
Taylor did grant one defense motion in the case on the data mining issue. The government argued it was unable to mount a defense of its actions to gather information wholesale — known as data mining — without disclosing state secrets. Taylor agreed with government lawyers on that one issue and dismissed the claim, saying the NSA would not have to defend that issue.
The case is American Civil Liberties Union, et al. vs. National Security Agency, No. 06-CV-10204.