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Thursday, July 3, 2008

POLITICS: Judge tosses wiretapping lawsuit by Islamic group

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out a lawsuit by an Islamic organization that accused the Bush administration of illegally wiretapping its telephones without warrants.

The U.S. branch of the now-defunct Al Haramain Islamic Foundation claimed federal officials illegally eavesdropped on their telephone calls without court approval required by the administration's so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program.

At the heart of their lawsuit was a top secret call log that the Treasury Department accidentally turned over to Al Haramain's lawyers, who say it shows government terrorist hunters listened to their phone conversations with foundation officials living in Saudi Arabia.

The government has designated the former Saudi Arabia-based Islamic charity as a terrorist organization.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker barred the foundation from using the top secret document in the case and dismissed the lawsuit. He gave the foundation 30 days to refile its lawsuit with other evidence proving it was a surveillance target.

Al Haramain lawyer Jon Eisenberg told Walker last year that the lawsuit was dead without the use of the call log to prove illegal surveillance.

But public disclosures about the surveillance program in general and about the charity's role in particular since then could help foundation lawyers prove their case, Eisenberg said after the ruling was issued.

Government lawyers did not immediately return a call for comment.

Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also barred the foundation lawyers from using the call log as evidence after the Bush administration argued that to do so would harm national security interests.

But the appeals court sent the case back to Walker to determine if the administration's claim to state secrets privilege is trumped by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act, known as FISA, requires government investigators to obtain a warrant from a secret court in Washington to conduct electronic eavesdropping of suspected terrorists inside the country.

Walker ruled that FISA does have precedence over the state secrets privilege, but said Al Haramain's lawyers are barred from using the call log they accidentally received.


Other news:
"Black national anthem" causes stir at Hick speech
Instead, Marie performed the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," which also is known as the "black national anthem."

When she finished, the proceedings moved forward, and the "Star-Spangled Banner" was never performed.

Councilman Charlie Brown took to local talk radio Tuesday afternoon to blast the lack of the nation's anthem at the proceedings.

"There's no replacement for the national anthem," Brown said. "They should have sung it."


Anonymous said...

I'm surprized that ACLU didn't get involved in this one. I'm sure the terrorist surveillance program hasn't the resources to snoop in on every American. So what's the worry? I think the Islamic foundation was upset because the administration was on the right track. Thank God the lawsuit was thrown out.

Marie should have performed what was expected of her. That's really a lot of bull claiming that she didn't want to make a political statement.