Oregon lawyers representing the former Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation based in Saudi Arabia said the U.S. Justice Department gave opposing counsel log books stamped "Top Secret" that contained information from phone calls between Al-Haramain clients and their defense, The New York Times said Monday.
Justice Department officials said it routinely monitors phone calls and e-mail but stressed any such surveillance is conducted in strict accordance with federal law.
"We do conduct ourselves ethically and adhere to our responsibilities under the rules of ethics," Justice Department lawyer Anthony J. Coppolino told the Times.
Those sentiments are backed by Edward MacMahon, the Virginia lawyer for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to face criminal prosecution for the Sept. 11 attacks, who said federal authorities acted quickly to ensure the protection of defendant's rights at all times.
Justice Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times the surveillance of attorney-client communications operates under the standard protocol for monitoring overseas communications.
"It's not like we're eager to violate lawyer-client privilege. The lawyer is just one of the people whose calls from the suspect are being swept up," one official said to the Times.