Monday, August 21, 2006

Warrantless Wiretaps Held Unconstitutional

Last week, in ACLU v. NSA (August 17, 2006), Judge Anna Diggs Taylor from the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled on the constitutionality of NSA's program of wiretapping "without benefit of warrant or other judicial approval, prior or subsequent, the international telephone and internet communications of numerous persons and organizations within this country...where one party to the communication is outside the United States, and the government has a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in support of al Qaeda."

After a thorough analysis of the state secrets privilege and of standing, she held that the program violated several existing laws and constitutional provisions. She closed the opinion with a quote from Justice Earl Warren in U.S. v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258 (1967):
  • Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending
    those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. . . . It would
    indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would
    sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . . which makes the
    defense of the Nation worthwhile. Id. at 264.