- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

1:44 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge ruled today 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,” the judge wrote in her 43-page opinion.

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 say they think 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 already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Judge 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.

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

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