Friday, January 26, 2007

U.S. Wants Case Against Warrantless Eavesdropping Dismissed

Everyone just knew this was coming.

A lawsuit challenging the legality of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program should be thrown out because the government is now conducting the wiretaps under the authority of a secret intelligence court, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department yesterday.

In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, Justice Department lawyers said the lawsuit of the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs -- which received a favorable ruling from a federal judge in Detroit -- should be considered moot because the case "no longer has any live significance." ...

The government contends that the new arrangement essentially invalidates an August ruling in the ACLU case by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who declared the surveillance program unconstitutional and ordered it halted. The government appealed to the 6th Circuit court. It wants Taylor's ruling vacated and the lawsuit dismissed. ...

But Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said that argument is "not plausible." She added that previous court rulings made it clear that the government cannot escape a legal judgment merely by voluntarily halting its illegal activity.

"The FISA court didn't reach out on its own to do something; the government asked it to do something," Beeson said. "And absent a ruling, they are free to return to their illegal conduct again."

The new lines of argument in the ACLU case come less than a week before a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday in Cincinnati where both sides are set to offer oral arguments.

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