This is terrible news for our national security. The NSA’s terrorist surveillance program was instrumental in stopping the British terrorists from blowing up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.
From the AP:
DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency’s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.
The government argued that the program is well within the president’s authority, but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.
The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule.
I’m assuming the government will appeal and that Attorney General Alberto Gonzoles will file an emergency motion to prevent it from being halted as it’s being appealed. Do any attorneys have any insight into this?
But there’s this toward the end of the article:
But even if Taylor harpoons the spying program, experts said, the decision likely would be overturned by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Given the composition of the 6th Circuit and its previous rulings in related areas, it seems more likely to favor national security over civil liberties if that issue is squarely presented,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. “And that’s what this case is all about.”
Update II: From Reuters:
DETROIT (Reuters) – A federal judge in Detroit on Thursday ordered the Bush administration to halt the National Security Agency’s program of domestic eavesdropping, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said the controversial practice of warrantless wiretapping known as the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” violated free speech rights, protections against unreasonable searches and the constitutional check on the power of the presidency.
The ruling marked a setback for the Bush administration, which had asked for the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to be thrown out, arguing that any court action on the case would jeopardize secrets in an ongoing war on terrorism.
Update III: Read the opinion here (pdf)
Update V: Rob at Say Anything reminds us that the plaintiffs didn’t even know that they were being listened to. They just thought they might have been listened to.
Update VI: John at Power Line also notes Judge Taylor’s past history of judge-shopping. She tried to stack the deck in the case about the U of M Law School’s affirmative action program in the liberals’ favor:
Chief Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the federal District Court in Detroit tried to take the suit against the law school away from Judge Bernard Freedman, who had been assigned it through a blind draw–and who was suspected of being skeptical about affirmative action–and consolidate it with a similar suit against the university’s undergraduate admissions practice, which Judge Patrick Duggan was hearing. The chief judge dropped that effort was dropped after the judge hearing the law school complaint went public with a blistering opinion objecting to what he termed “the highly irregular” effort of the chief judge. Judge Duggan ruled in favor of the undergraduate racial preferences, while Judge Freedman ruled against the law school preferences.
Update VII: Fox News says the Justice Department has appealed the ruling.
Update VIII: Macranger at Macsmind has a statement from the Dept. of Justice:
“The Terrorist Surveillance Program is a critical tool that ensures we have in place an early warning system to detect and prevent a terrorist attack. In the ongoing conflict with al-Qaeda and its allies, the President has the primary duty under the Constitution to protect the American people. The Constitution gives the President the full authority necessary to carry out that solemn duty, and we believe the program is lawful and protects civil liberties. Because the Terrorist Surveillance Program is an essential tool for the intelligence community in the War on Terror, the Department of Justice has appealed the District Court’s order. The parties have also agreed to a stay of the injunction until the District Court can hear the Department’s motion for a stay pending appeal.”
Update IX: Debbie Schlussel has more on Judge Taylor’s misconduct in the U of M affirmative action case.