August 17, 2006 9:44 AM PDT

Federal judge orders halt to NSA spy program

The warrantless Internet and telephone surveillance program authorized by the Bush administration violates the U.S. Constitution and must cease immediately, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The landmark decision makes U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's once-secret program. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the government, claiming the program "ran roughshod" over the constitutional rights of millions of Americans and ran afoul of federal wiretapping law.

In a sweeping victory for the ACLU and its clients, which included organizations representing criminal defense lawyers, journalists, Islamic-Americans and academics, Taylor appeared to knock down several major legal arguments that the Bush administration has used to defend the program since it was revealed by The New York Times last December.

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," the judge wrote in her 43-page opinion (click here for PDF).

The decision immediately drew an appeal from the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued in a statement that "the Terrorist Surveillance Program is an essential tool for the intelligence community in the War on Terror." The Bush administration also requested that the judge's opinion be put on hold until the appeals process is complete. The government appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Meanwhile, the parties agreed to a temporary stay of the opinion, which allows the surveillance program to continue operating, until a Sept. 7 hearing to address the government's request for a lengthier stay.

The terrorist surveillance program, Taylor ruled, violates the First Amendment's right to freedom of expression and the Fourth Amendment right to privacy--that is, freedom from unreasonable searches. It also ignores requirements of a 1978 electronic wiretapping law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and represents an overstepping of presidential powers, she wrote.

"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," the judge wrote, dismissing the Bush administration's argument that the warrantless program falls within the president's inherent wartime powers as commander in chief.

The judge, who was appointed by President Carter in 1979, also dismissed the government's request that the suit be thrown out because of the "state secrets privilege," which permits the government to suppress a lawsuit that might lead to the disclosure of military secrets.

Taylor did, however, reject a piece of the ACLU's lawsuit that related to alleged data mining of communications records, saying that litigation of that claim would violate the state secrets privilege.

"We are enormously gratified with the court's historic ruling today," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a conference call with reporters. "At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms a system of checks and balances that's necessary in our democracy."

The Justice Department disputed the judge's conclusions, referring again to the program as a "critical tool" for detecting and preventing terrorist attacks. "The president has the primary duty under the Constitution to protect the American people," the department said in a statement. "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."

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow also blasted Taylor's decision, saying in a statement that the Bush Administration "couldn't disagree more" with the ruling. He pointed to revelations just last week of a terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, which netted at least 24 arrests overseas.

"United States intelligence officials have confirmed that the program has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives," Snow said. "The program is carefully administered, and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected Al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist."

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351 comments

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Good to see.
I really wish that this had come sooner. Now I would like the President to comply with the court order. I know some people think that the president should have this authority and they tend to be partisan Republicans or just really strong Bush supporters. What those types tend to forget, is that presidents and the party they represent change often, and are you comfortable with Al Gore or even worse Hillary Clinton having these powers?
Posted by echeola (12 comments )
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Terrorist Huggers On The March!
The judge is probably a left wingnut case, no doubt. When will these ridiculous terrorist hugging liberals quit with this nonsense? I'm sure their motto is "better red than dead" and will continue to join forces with the enemy among us and undermine President Bush's anti-terrorist initiatives. I can't wait until the next election cycle and these jokers are defeated once again.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bush & Cheney will call Judge Taylor anit-American
I would be willing to bet that within a day or two, the Bush and Cheney spin doctors will try to make Judge Taylor out to be an anti-American, left wing, pro terrorist judge.
Posted by Mister14 (3 comments )
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Since when....
has a court order stopped the president from doing what he wanted... :/
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There has to be a line drawn
I don't think there was any doubt that this was going to be judged unconsitutional. There has to be a line drawn somewhere to protect us all from overt government intrusion in our daily communication. While the fight against extremist fundamentalism is important these abuses of power have to remain in balance with our rights.

However, I also think that the with one party controlling both Congress and the presidency we're probably not going to see any real momentum in ending the NSA spy program.
Posted by slickmachines (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
new way of doing things
This is very good news.
What confuses me is that normally when presidents ignore the constitution and rules we have set in place that govern us they get in trouble for these things.
I guess that maybe that's the "old way" of doing things. Now we break the laws and declare it legal, which it remains so until proven otherwise?
Posted by Fireweaver (105 comments )
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Terrorist Huggers on the March!
I'm certain this was one of those liberal judges trying to re-write our laws, no doubt. What a lost cause if there ever was one. It's incredulous how the liberal terrorist huggers think they can win an election on the basis of enabling terrorism. What a joke. I can't wait until they are defeated once again in the next election cycle. It will be fun to watch!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
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Our Security among dangerous
In a post 9/11 World, with an ongoing war on terror, and when sleeper cells of terrorists walk amongst us, this is terrible news. This ruling will surely be changed. Our safety owes a tremendous debt to the NSA, among other American and Allied agencies protecting our security. Thanks London!

Is CNET reporting this for "Technology" Reasons?

Another Concerned Citizen
Posted by sndoyle (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Judge Taylor
If they miss a terrorist some place, lets hope
Judge Taylor is the receiptant,
Posted by gbohn (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Unless any one has noticed we are at war.
This judge has just enhanced the capability of our enemies to communicate without being caught and has significantly jeopardized the safety of our country.

It would be poetic justice if the potential repercussions only fell on those who promote this naive, destructive idealogy.
Posted by stargazer55 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i hope to god this gets overturned.
This whole thing has to do with listening in to known terrorists outside the US, contacting or being contacted by people inside the United States.

don't get me wrong... i don't want them spying on calls inside the US going around inside the US without a warrant (which they are not doing), but this whole thing is about calls going outside the US to known terrorists. Our constitution does not apply to these people!

But then again, the political left will do better if America looses. It is so upsetting that according to them, everything bad in the world is America's fault.... and they call themselves patriots, yet when Bush or Chenny call the recient capture of terrorists in the UK a reminder of our enimy, the libs call it "offensive to use that event for political gain" These wiretaps are for the collection of intelligence, not the prosicution of americans. if anything here were braught to a court, it would be turned down. but it aids in the country's protection.
Posted by zeeboid (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One Positive Step
Many more needed to completely undo the facist Rove/Bush/Cheney rapes of the Constitution.

If anyone is stupid enough to think this rejection of NSA tactics encourages terrorism, keep in mind that Great Britain busted the terrorist ring last week WITHOUT such illegal wiretaps. They did it BY THE BOOK.
Posted by jgr777 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom from what?
Everyone of us has the total freedom to express every opinion, and don't have to fear to be wiretapped, if has nothing to hide.
Every single one that is complaining because it's being listened, it's because he's telling something isn't worth saying, too wrong to be acceptable, or too stupid to be useful.
Posted by ├čodincus (4 comments )
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Powerless Americans
What gives? We empeached Clinton, but he stayed full term. "Who cares about rules?", from a Judge, when the constitution is disregarded so often?!?

The problem is simple. It takes too long to make change happen through our current political BS and no action system. As a president you have to cut through the crap and make things as best you can with what you've got.

Electronic voting booths that can't count or have accountability. Democracy is taking a turn for the circus! Can we be serious when we blame other countries for not wanting to become like us and accept Wal-mart mentality and misconducts?

We are having a law/electronic/patent/social melt down and everyone is pointing at everyone else while no one has accountability for their actions.

What a slippery slop we all must conform and live with. Good luck and God Bless Everyone - Everywhere!

Best regards,

Mac
Posted by Blazer2008 (4 comments )
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RE: anyone notice we are at war.
this is the first spout of ignorance.

in times of war or not the freedoms of Americans should never be removed.

I guess you want internment camps for all muslims but this time run by Japan american citizens?
It will not work. Cry of terror is always what is being used to kill freedoms.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
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Good thing the brits didn't have this back in 1776
Because if they could listen in on all the meetings of the revolutionists, none of you would be here today.

I have nothing to hide, but that doesn't give the government the right to assume I am committing some wrong and force me to prove I'm innoncent. That's not the way freedom works people. And for all you "I have nothing to hide" goobs, protesting a government that is tyrannical is the truest form of patriotism. Just ask the colonists.
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does not make US less secure or help terorrists..
This is not about preventing wiretapping of people in
communication with known terrorist. It is preventing about
wiretapping *without a warrant*

If a suspect is suspected to be contact with a known terrorist, they
will always obtain such warrant easily.
Posted by ulric2 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ben Franklin
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This is the spirit that we Americans have lost. Most of us no nothing of the fight to gain the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted. The we allow a president to just take those freedoms away under the guise of saftey.

Those who are willing to give up any amount of freedom deserves none at all.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
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Except the military
All though a judge must uphold our constitution. For the purpose of bringing a US Citizen to trial, all information obtained without a warrant is not admisible in court. The Military, Secret Service, and the CIA would be excempt from this requirement since there purpose would not be to bring charges against any citizen. That would be like asking a judge to stop a war or a court martial where they have no jurisdiction.
Posted by Stivirino (3 comments )
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Good Decision
Thanks be to Allah and his prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), that this judge has the wisdom to rule on what is right.

Her understanding is truly heartening, and fills me with hope.

We will make sure that she will be one of the last to meet Allah.
Posted by mustafa-alsayed (1 comment )
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maybe a hollow victory? who will enforce?
don't the attorney general and NSA report into the executive branch?
Posted by DoughboyNJ (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A win for al Qaeda!
I'm sure this will embolden the al Qaeda types.

Activist judges appointed by democrats!


[http://Rove prepares the talking points...|http://Rove prepares the talking points...]

The response from the administration is always one of these:

a. It's no big deal -- minimize it despite the obvious
b. Repackage it -- explain that it was anticipated and will let us
move forward with the legal process
c. Shoot the messenger
d. Change the subject
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Long live liberty,
Finally a woman braver then all men and smarter then the king's men.

We are at War? No, We are at a pretend war and the main target is us, americans, and not the pahntoms so called terrorsists.

George Bush & Company are creating an endless war so they have an endless reign with endless dictatorship.

Long live liberty, Down with terroisim and dectatorship and long live Judge Taylor for hert bravery.

P.S. Al those paranoids who believe in the War on Terrorism should seek help. Pills do wonders to releive you from Bad News George lies.
Posted by manaboulsi (37 comments )
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I just love how the Bush fanboys are squealing
All they can do is bringing out the old, tired strawmen and non-sequiturs...
I suggest thinking by yourself...
Posted by JoeF2 (1306 comments )
Reply Link Flag
left - right..... in - out
how about up - up - up

congradulations Judge Taylor... that must of been a tough call.. I am sure there was much to consider before taking a stand... I am thankful we have people like you defending the rights that we have grown upon.. and putting up with the public who dont understand.. its a major sacrifice and I really appreciate it... I know everyone does.. even the ones who are manipulated....

thank you
Posted by freqmd5 (19 comments )
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