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Federal Judge Strikes Down Use of Warrantless Wiretaps

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Chipperman, Aug 17, 2006.

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  1. Chipperman

    Chipperman Member

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    Breaking news. Posted on Fox and CNN. No detail as of yet.

    We'll see what develops.
     
  2. Chipperman

    Chipperman Member

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    From CNN:

    NSA eavesdropping program ruled unconstitutional
    Judge orders immediate halt to program

    Thursday, August 17, 2006; Posted: 12:14 p.m. EDT (16:14 GMT)

    • DETROIT, Michigan (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.

    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
     
  3. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

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    Attorney-client communications in which legal advice is either sought or given are priviledged. There is not, however, a journalistic or academic priviledge. Perhaps we should not have an expectation of privacy when talking internationally to suspected terrorists. If too many people are wrongly being added to the list of "suspected terrorists," that is a different problem to deal with in a different way.
     
  4. Marshall

    Marshall Member

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    Considering the Judge, I'm not surprised.
     
  5. Chipperman

    Chipperman Member

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    Here's the story from Fox:

    Judge Rules Terrorist Surveillance Program Unconstitutional
    Thursday, August 17, 2006


    DETROIT — 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 as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

    "Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

    Click here to read the judge's opinion (pdf).

    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 listening to 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 had already publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule on the case.

    "By holding that even the president is not above the law, the court has done its duty," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

    The NSA had no immediate comment on the ruling.

    Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the ACLU over data-mining of phone records by the NSA. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation could jeopardize state secrets.
     
  6. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Remember: he didn't rule wiretapping unconstitutional. He just ruled WARRANTLESS wiretapping unconstitutional.

    There's nothing in the Constitution that prevents Congress or the Courts from streamlining the process for obtaining a warrant in these sorts of cases. The NSA and other Washington agencies just don't want to bother with getting one, and they don't care what impact that has on our rights.

    Henry Bowman is right, but I think that the process for overseeing the sorts of searches that are conducted IS the warrant process. If too many people are ruled "terrorists" then that's where the check-and-balance system exists.
     
  7. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    “I am for socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself... I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.”

    ~Roger Baldwin,
    Founder, ACLU
     
  8. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    longeyes, communism is evil. But so is absolute power in the hands of our current government officials, or any government officials, no matter what they call their system.
     
  9. FreedomKommando

    FreedomKommando Member

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  10. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    The purpose of a warrant is to determine whether a search or seizure is unreasonable (or not) in advance by the judiciary, as a check on the powers of the executive. No probable cause, no warrant.

    It does not state that a warrant is required for a search or seizure. It does require that it be reasonable.

    I think that talking to someone with provable links to sworn enemies of the US makes such a search reasonable.

    I am a little disturbed by the lack of oversight. Maybe some after the fact oversight is in order. Have a court review the overall program on a regualr basis, just to see that it is not getting out of hand.
     
  11. CZ 75 BD

    CZ 75 BD Member

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    ...and how do these peolple even have standing?
     
  12. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    I think that taps can and will continue. Agencies doing them will need to get warrants.

    The court has to draw a line somewhere.

    While the taps never bothered me, I've also never "bought" the assertion that judicial oversight would have made them impossible. The agencies just don't want to have to get warrants. This wouldn't be the first time. Warrants are an inconvenience to them.

    For those who trust the Bush Administration, I won't argue. But do you really want another Janet Reno doing this stuff? CINC Hillary Clinton doing it?

    Courts allow a LOT. SCOTUS has been pretty lax about upholding individual rights, lately. Warrants are not THAT hard to get.
     
  13. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

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    Exactly right.
     
  14. Phetro

    Phetro Member

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    Woohoo! Justice prevails for once.

    Want wiretap? GET WARRANT. Very simple, and constitutional.

    Can't get a warrant? You must not have a good reason...

    Now when is a judge going to wake up one day and declare the ATF unconstitutional?
     
  15. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    In fact, every administration since WWI has done it in one form or another. The tap is on the other end, listening to foreign agents and terrorists.

    The argument is, what happens when someone in the US calls a terrorist or foreign intelligence agent? Up until now, the requirement to stop monitoring a terrorist and run get a warrent was nonexistant.
     
  16. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    How do you know that the person on the other end of the line is a terrorist or foreign intel agent?

    YOU KNOW THEIR PHONE NUMBER!

    So get a warrant that covers tapping calls to that number. If Federal law enforcement can legally pose as and/or monitor drug dealers, money launderers, etc., in order to catch their customers, then surely they can get a warrant to find out who calls phone number X and hear what they say. If not, we need to deal with that as a separate issue, not try to circumvent the warrant process.

    If that presents problems for secrecy, then deal with those problems! There is already a special FISA court. If that system needs fixing or augmentation, then fix it or augment it.
     
  17. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The problem it, we don't want anyone to know who we're capable of listening to. Getting warrants involves letting a lot of people know something they have no need to know.

    As Benjamin Franklin said, "Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead."
     
  18. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

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    Which is why the secret FISA courts were set up to allow warrants to be obtained in secret, thereby addressing the problem you bring up.

    The problem here is, the administration isn't fighting for secret warrants; it's fighting for warrants not being necessary at all.
     
  19. Beren

    Beren Moderator Emeritus

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    There's an easy answer to all this confusion. Simply enforce that any call going outside of the U.S. have the following automated warning played first:

    "Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance and training purposes."

    :D
     
  20. BryanP

    BryanP Member

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    I have no problem with the wiretaps. It's the "warrantless" part that is the issue. Get a frickin warrant. If you can't justify a warrant you don't have sufficient reason to listen to the phone call.

    As for the Baldwin quote, the man had many faults, but you should at least post the entire quote and not an artfully edited version.

    "I am for socialism, disarmament and ultimately for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control by those who produce wealth. Communism is, of course, the goal."

    That quote is just as bad, but editing out "as an instrument of violence and compulsion" makes your use of it somewhat dishonest.
     
  21. Bartholomew Roberts

    Bartholomew Roberts Moderator Emeritus

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    One thing worth remembering is that there is no requirement that someone be outside the United States in order to be labelled a "foreign intelligence agent" or "terrorist" - and these seem to be the only criteria necessary to justify the warrantless wiretapping.

    As for the "it only applies to those talking to terrorists" bit, the NYT was reporting as many as 5,000 calls being monitored at any given time IIRC. If that is the case, we are either up to our eyeballs in foreign intelligence agents and terrorists or people are being classified as such erroneously and then being wiretapped without a warrant.

    Here is a past discussion on these same lawsuits that had some good commentary from both sides:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=177361&page=2&highlight=NSA
     
  22. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Like I said above, if the process is a problem, fix the process. What we have now is Federal agencies that tried to use the problems with a process as an excuse to throw out an important check on their absolute power, which they've never found convenient.
     
  23. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The "process" is not the problem. It's having too many people knowing what's going on is the problem.

    There has never been a requirement for a warrant to tap a telephone overseas. Suddenly someone jumps up and claims that if an overseas phone is tapped, but one party to the coversation is in the United States, a warrant is needed.

    Where did that come from?
     
  24. rbernie
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    rbernie Member

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    Roger that. If either end of a phone link is allocated to a US citizen, the .gov doesn't get to listen in to the conversation without a warrant.
     
  25. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    That's never been the law before. Never before has any court said we need warrants to surveil suspected and known terrorists overseas. Never before has a court said if a US citizen calls them, or they call a US citizen, we have to drop the surveillance.

    This ruling tears a huge hole in our ability to monitor terrorists.
     
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