Judge: President Can't Just Make Up His Own Wiretapping Rules

A federal judge in California ruled yesterday that the President can't just make up his own rules for wiretapping. Only the FISA law passed by Congress can authorize domestic spying, according to the ruling:


WASHINGTON — A federal judge in California said Wednesday that the wiretapping law established by Congress was the “exclusive” means for the president to eavesdrop on Americans, and he rejected the government’s claim that the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief trumped that law.
The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of California, made his findings in a ruling on a lawsuit brought by an Oregon charity. The group says it has evidence of an illegal wiretap used against it by the National Security Agency under the secret surveillance program established by President Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Justice Department has tried for more than two years to kill the lawsuit, saying any surveillance of the charity or other entities was a “state secret” and citing the president’s constitutional power as commander in chief to order wiretaps without a warrant from a court under the agency’s program. [NYT]
According to the story, Judge Walker's opinion carries extra weight because he has already been chosen to hear the consolidated lawsuit against all the telecoms who cooperated with Bush's illegal domestic spying program.
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