August 17: Late this afternoon, Kevin Krolicki of Reuter’s reported that U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had ordered the Bush administration to stop its domestic wiretap program because it violates Americans' civil rights, including freedom of speech, protections against unreasonable searches, and a constitutional check on the power of the presidency. Her ruling was published online.
From the ruling: "Accordingly, the fourth amendment . . . requires reasonableness in all searches. It also requires prior warrants for any reasonable search based upon prior existing probable cause . . . and the interposition of a mutual magistrate between executive branch enforcement officers and citizens."
"’There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,’ Taylor said in the 44-page ruling.” The judge also ruled that the administration violated a 1978 law requiring that warrants be issued by a secret court for “for eavesdropping on individuals or suspects in the United States.”
The administration, “buoyed by polls showing Americans back its handling of security and terrorism,” immediately filed an appeal. “’We have confidence in the lawfulness of this program,’ Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said after Thursday's ruling. ‘That's why the appeal has been lodged.’"
The National Security Agency program has taken hits from groups as diverse as civil rights activists and conservative Republicans, concerned that Bush had abused his powers. Bush approved the program after the September 11 attacks, but it was only made public last year. The NSA is allowed to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without a warrant providing there’s a suspected link to al Qaeda operatives.
The program will continue until the judge rules on the government’s appeal for stay pending the appeal.
The suit had been filed by the The American Civil Liberties Union and the case will likely wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, the Supreme Court ruled against the administration, calling illegal a system of military tribunals set up to try foreign suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
"At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms the system of checks and balances that's necessary to our democracy," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told reporters after the ruling. He called the opinion "another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration's legal strategy in the war on terror."
A more detailed analysis of the Judge's ruling can be found on attorney and former litigator Glenn Greenwald's blog.