Friday, May 22, 2009

Wiretap Judge Slams Government

Bob Egelko writes in The San Francisco Chronicle:

A federal judge in San Francisco lashed out Friday at the Obama administration for its refusal to share a classified document with an Islamic group that claims it was illegally wiretapped, and said he may declare the group the winner by default in its lawsuit against the government.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has expressed increasing frustration with the Justice Department's hard line in the case, raised the stakes in his latest order by suggesting he would issue a final ruling against the government and order it to pay damages.

He ordered the department to tell him, by next Friday, why he should not declare the government responsible for violating the rights of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation as a penalty for "failing to obey the court's orders."

Such a ruling would stop short of the conclusion Al-Haramain seeks in its lawsuit - that it was wiretapped as part of the program authorized by President George W. Bush in 2001 to intercept calls between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists. Walker could not issue such a finding because the case has been stuck in a dispute over the organization's right to sue.

But it would be a stiff rebuke to an administration that has pledged to reconsider Bush's broad claims of secrecy in all cases touching on national security.

More here.


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