Judge Says Warrantless Wiretapping Was Illegal

Former President Bush did indeed overstep his bounds with his post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping.

That’s the finding of a federal judge, who said the Bush Administration’s eavesdropping on an Islamic foundation was illegal. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco also said Bush’s entire wiretapping surveillance was illegal.

Groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for years have sued the government for warrantless wiretapping after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Up until now, most courts have backed the spying; even President Obama’s Justice Department has fought judicial reviews of the wiretapping program. One exception came in 2007 when a judge ruled that the National Security Agency’s wiretapping also was illegal.

Wednesday’s decision was a victory, wrote Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the EFF, in a blog.

“The court’s thorough decision is a strong rebuke to the government’s argument that only the Executive Branch may determine if a case against the government can proceed in the courts, by invoking state secrets,” he said.

The Obama Administration now must decide whether to appeal the ruling.

Telecom companies including AT&T Inc. were accused of helping the Bush Administration conduct its warrantless wiretapping and named in lawsuits as a result.

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