Decision Shows President Bush Is Not Above the Law

In another sharp rebuke to the Bush administration’s ongoing abuse of presidential power, a federal court ruled that the National Security Agency cannot continue to intercept the phone calls and emails of Americans without court warrants. This was the first ruling by a federal court on the constitutionality of the illegal spying program and was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor agreed with the ACLU that the NSA warrantless spying program violates our rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. She also found that the program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Additionally, she rejected the government’s argument that the case could not proceed because of concerns that “state secrets
I attended the oral argument in Detroit earlier this summer, and watched Ann Beeson, our fantastic Associate Legal Director, do a remarkable job of presenting our case before the court. We were cautiously optimistic after the argument, but today we celebrated in earnest with Jameel Jaffer and Melissa Goodman, who also played key roles in backing Ann up on the litigation (Ann was on her way to a well deserved vacation in Costa Rica.). Needless to say, we were all elated at the news.

Judge Taylor issued an injunction barring the government from continuing to track Americans’ phone conversations and emails without judicial review or the approval of Congress. The Justice Department has said it will appeal the decision and is asking Judge Taylor to delay enforcement of her ruling during the appeal. We will oppose the government’s motion for a stay pending appeal, but have agreed to a short temporary stay until Judge Taylor can review the request. A hearing has been scheduled for September 7.

The ramifications of this ruling are enormous. In Congress, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) has introduced legislation - crafted with Vice President Cheney and White House lawyers - that would authorize the program under the notion that the president has inherent powers to monitor any American, secretly and indefinitely, without any independent check to protect individual rights. The Cheney-Specter bill would also give the secret FISA court the “option