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Judge Allows NSA Wiretaps for Another Week

Thursday, 28 September 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- The federal judge who ordered a halt to the Bush administration's program of domestic wiretapping on Thursday allowed the surveillance to continue for a week to allow an appeals court to weigh in on an issue expected to end up with the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit denied the Justice Department's request for a lengthy stay pending an appeal of her August ruling that the National Security Agency's five-year-old surveillance program violates the civil rights of Americans, the lawyer who brought the lawsuit said.

Instead, Taylor gave the government a seven-day window to get a stay from a federal appeals court before that court hears arguments on the legality of the wiretap program.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in March on behalf of scholars, attorneys, journalists and non-profit groups that regularly communicate with people in the Middle East.

Taylor's ruling came as Congress sought to craft and pass legislation that would spell out when and how a president can order electronic surveillance without a warrant.

Although that legislation would provide a legal framework for the NSA program, the wiretaps could still be found by U.S. courts to violate the Constitution. The issue is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I think it's a further recognition that the program is inflicting ongoing harm on not just our plaintiffs but on the constitutional rights of others as well," ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer said of Taylor's ruling.

The White House argues that the NSA program is needed to protect Americans from terrorism.

But the program has been criticized by civil rights activists and raised concern among lawmakers, including some in President George W. Bush's own Republican Party, who say he may have overstepped his powers.

Bush authorized the NSA program after the September 11 attacks on the United States, although the public only learned of its existence last year.

The program allows the government to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant, if those wiretaps are made to track suspected terrorist operatives.

The Justice Department had asked Taylor to allow the program to continue until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati hears the government's appeal.

That process could take months, the ACLU's Jaffer said.

(c) 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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WASHINGTON -- The federal judge who ordered a halt to the Bush administration's program of domestic wiretapping on Thursday allowed the surveillance to continue for a week to allow an appeals court to weigh in on an issue expected to end up with the U.S. Supreme...
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Thursday, 28 September 2006 12:00 AM
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