Judge Orders Halt to NSA Wiretapping
The Bush administration suffered a stunning defeat Thursday as a federal judge in Detroit ruled that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program was unconstitutional, and ordered an immediate halt of all surveillance.
The ruling also seemed to indicate the program was an abuse of presidential power, possibly setting the stage for an Congressional investigation into President Bush's conduct surrounding the order to engage in domestic spying.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, who filed a suit on behalf of journalists, scholars and others who frequently place calls to overseas contacts. The group says the program makes their jobs harder, and contacts are leery of divulging information for fear of surveillance from the federal government.
"This court is constrained to grant to Plaintiffs the Partial Summary Judgment requested, and holds that the TSP violates the APA; the Separation of Powers doctrine; the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution; and the statutory law," U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said in the 43-page ruling.
Taylor also had harsh words for President Bush and members of his administration who argued that the president was within his powers as Commander in Chief to carry out the wiretapping program. She pointed out that the office itself was created by the Constitution, thus meaning all powers are derived from that document.
"There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," Taylor wrote. "So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."
Neither the NSA nor the Bush administration had publicly commented on the ruling as of press time.
The ACLU did not win a complete victory, however; its claims of data mining by the NSA were rejected by Taylor, who said not enough evidence existed to prove such a charge. Additionally, an investigation into the accusations ran the risk of revealing state secrets, she ruled.