Federal Judge Orders Halt to NSA Wiretapping
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2006; 2:42 PM
A federal judge in Detroit ordered a halt to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, ruling for the first time that the controversial effort ordered by President Bush was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor wrote in a strongly-worded 43-page opinion that the NSA wiretapping program violates privacy and free-speech rights and the constitutional separation of powers between the three branches of government. She also found that it violates a 1978 law set up to oversee clandestine surveillance.
The Justice Department said that it was appealing the decision and that the parties to the lawsuit had agreed to delay the judge's order until the appeal could be heard.
Ruling in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups, Taylor, 73, wrote that "public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of the Constitution. . . . "
"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. " . . . There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."
The ruling marks a significant setback for the Bush administration, which has aggressively defended the legality of the NSA program since its existence was first revealed in press reports last December. Dubbing it the "terrorist surveillance program," officials have said the effort allows the NSA to monitor telephone calls and e-mails to and from the United States without warrants when one party is suspected of ties to al-Qaeda.
The decision could also have an impact on Congress, which has for months been debating whether to limit or endorse the NSA program through legislation.
The Justice Department argued in court that the program is well within Bush's authority as president, but said proving it would require revealing state secrets. The ACLU argued that many details about the program had already been revealed by Bush and other government officials, and Taylor, who was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, agreed.
"Today's ruling is a landmark victory against the abuse of power that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Government spying on innocent Americans without any kind of warrant and without congressional approval runs counter to the very foundations of our democracy."
He called the ruling "yet another nail in the coffin of the Bush administration's strategy in the war on terror. . . . The judge very clearly points out that this, at its core, is about presidential powers." © 2006 The Washington Post Company
Perhaps there is still hope??