Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warrantless Wiretapping is Still Illegal

A Federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program was illegal, and ordered the government to pay damages to people whose phone calls were intercepted.

Then ruling is an obvious one, and the only reason it hasn't been given before now is that since who was being wiretapped was secret, plaintiffs were unable to prove that they had been harmed by the law. But lawyers for Al Haramain, an Islamic charity, were able to prove from public-source documents that their phones were tapped. The judge ordered the government to produce a warrant, and when they couldn't, granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

Judge Vaughn Walker also threw out the contention, first made by the Bush administration but maintained by the Obama administration, that the case had to be dismissed because trying it would reveal state secrets.

Jon Eisenberg, the plaintiffs lawyer, said "Judge Walker is saying that FISA and federal statutes like it are not optional. The president, just like any other citizen of the United States, is bound by the law."

All I can say is, Hallelujah. In the aftermath of 9-11, it made some sense that the courts moved slowly and carefully in evaluating the claims Bush's people made about measures they said were necessary to protect the country. But the law is the law, and it applies to everyone, all the time. It was all important for the future of our democracy that the extreme claims of Presidential power made by John Yoo, David Addington, and their ilk be struck down. Slowly, gradually, their bizarre theories are being repudiated, and justice is returning to the land.

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