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Judge Finds NSA Wiretapping Program Illegal 136

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that a federal judge has ruled that the NSA's warrantless surveillance program was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration's effort to keep one of Bush's most disputed counterterrorism policies shrouded in secrecy. Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers who were representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been 'subjected to unlawful surveillance,' the judge said that the government was liable to pay them damages."
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Judge Finds NSA Wiretapping Program Illegal

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  • Just a speed bump (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smchris ( 464899 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @08:08AM (#31699254)

    I'm sure our crack Supreme Court will understand the constitutionality of illegal wiretaps.

  • "If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged." - Noam Chomsky [chomsky.info]
  • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @08:20AM (#31699312)

    The FISA law was created in the wake of civil liberties abuses under the Johnson and Nixon administrations. It set up the secret FISA court so that the executive branch could not use "national security" as an excuse to bypass judicial oversight when conducting surveillance. The standards were very low to begin with, but the essential point is the "checks and balances" provision where at least SOMEONE (even if it's a secretive panel of judges) other than the executive branch knows what's going on.

    A critical element of the LAW that's being overlooked here is that it established civil AND criminal penalties for violations. If the judge has ruled that there are civil liabilities, then it's obvious that someone broke the law. We now need to see criminal investigations, arrests and prosecutions. What's the point of having a regulatory framework governing the behavior of Federal employees when there are no consequences for violating the regulations? From the intelligence community to the financial regulatory agencies to the legislature and president himself, this government has exhibited an utter and complete disregard for the rule of law. Nixon said "If the president does it, then it's not a crime". Now it seems like "If a government employee does it, it's not a crime".

  • Re:A late victory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @08:34AM (#31699416)

    "A late victory is still a victory I guess."

    Yeah. Recall however that the it was over 2 years (72-74) from the time of the break-in at the Watergate hotel until Nixon was impeached. Then, it wasn't until 1975 and 1976 when the Church committee did a serious investigation of the history of abuses by the intelligence community. I remain hopeful that at some point the entire truth will be revealed. My hope has been diminished by the fact that the current president seems content to simply "move on" and forget the criminal activities of the prior administration, but it's not too late.

  • by Derek Pomery ( 2028 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @08:40AM (#31699460)

    Totally pointless as I know.

    I've tried getting Libertarians elected.

    The simplest one was a judge. In theory, no party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans splitting the judges, no one really knows much about judges, the Libertarian lawyer is well qualified. We're manning the polls. Easy. Right?

    Wrong. Everyone just picks their sample ballot printed by the Dems that says to vote for the 2 Democratic judges and the 1 Republican one. They just copy from the "sample" onto the real. That's their entire act of voting, even when we could get them to accept alternate literature.

  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @10:12AM (#31700120)

    It's the New York Times. Accuracy there has been suboptimal.

    And the ruling didn't even go that far. The government's defense was that it is not required to obey the law. The government didn't try to argue that it *was* obeying the law. So the judge ruled that 1) yes, you are required to obey the law, and 2) since you didn't try to argue that you were obeying the law, I have to assume that you're not, so pay up.

    In other words, the issue of legality didn't really come up except in a very narrow sense.

  • by virchull ( 963203 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @10:29AM (#31700214)

    Judge Vaughn R. Walker should get the Presidential Freedom Award. He has told everyone in government that we are all equal under the law. Even President Bush and NSA spooks don't get a free pass to lawless behavior. As VP Biden would say - this is a BIG F*'g deal - not just for illegal wire taps, but for all kinds of lawless behavior that has been (still is) been done by government employees.

  • by Sprouticus ( 1503545 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @11:18AM (#31700546)

    If they dont appeal I actually think this might have been an intentional act on the part of the Obama Justice dept to undermine the Bush Doctrine. Makes you wonder if the document that was 'leaked accidentily' was put in there on purpose.

    Think about it. If Obama had just said he was stopping the program, anyone could have restarted it in the future. But by sabotaging the program and ensuring its demise they actually fixed the problem permanently. Especially if they dont appeal.

    Or they could be just as power hungry as Bush and lost to a reasonable judge.

    We will probably never know.

  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday April 01, 2010 @12:10PM (#31700918) Homepage Journal

    That was my thought too. "Effects" is "any damned thing you own that we didn't think of offhand, but might not be precisely homes or papers." In short, anything that is YOURS. How is this not clear?? How would electronic anything be exempt??

    Besides, the Constitution is not a list of things We The People may do or not do. It is a list of things the Government MUST do and MUST NOT do, and with respect to that government, the Constitution is indeed in the form of "all things not compulsory are forbidden".

    I swear, our whole government is becoming one big April Fools joke, with We The People cast as the fools. :(

  • FOIA and NSArchive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @12:47PM (#31701178) Homepage

    I remain hopeful that at some point the entire truth will be revealed. My hope has been diminished by the fact that the current president seems content to simply "move on" and forget the criminal activities of the prior administration, but it's not too late.

    Well, if you're satisfied simply knowing the truth, whether or not it results in justice being meted out, then I'd take heart. Because personally I bet that in about twenty years the truth, straight from the horse's mouth, will be available at the National Security Archive [gwu.edu].

    Ever wonder if the CIA and Oliver North were really allowing the Contras to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. in order to buy weapons, to get around the Congressional ban on material assistance? Did the U.S. government really know that Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds at the same time we sent Donald Rumsfeld to go shake our good buddy's hand?

    Well it's all right there. BTW, the answer to both questions, according to the U.S. government itself, is "yes".

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday April 01, 2010 @01:52PM (#31701694) Homepage Journal

    I never thought I'd see a worse President than Carter, but Bush II proved me wrong. Nixon was a terrible President, but he did do a few good things, like signing the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

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