Judge Orders First-Ever Damages for Bush-Era Illegal Wiretapping

Friday, December 24, 2010
The Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, branded a terrorist organization during the Bush administration, is set to receive $40,800 in damages from the federal government for illegally spying on the foundation’s communications. The government also has been ordered to pay $2.5 million in legal fees incurred by Al-Haramain, which was subjected to unauthorized wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2004.
 
The settlement was ordered by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled in April that President George W. Bush exceeded his legal authority when he instructed the NSA to spy on suspected terrorists in the United States without obtaining warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Walker’s ruling is the first one to go against the government, which still is facing other lawsuits stemming from the controversial surveillance program.
 
As a candidate, Barack Obama criticized the illegal wiretapping program. However, after assuming the presidency, he has ordered his Justice Department to defend the government against the lawsuit. It is not yet known if the Obama administration will appeal the case to a higher court.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Awarded Damages (by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle)

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