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Court upholds some warrantless wiretaps

Jan. 15, 2009 at 4:37 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A special U.S. intelligence court panel, in an unusual move Thursday, issued a public ruling upholding warrantless wiretapping in some circumstances.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said that in national security interests "of the highest order of magnitude" outweigh the right to individual privacy, The Washington Post said. The decision only applies in cases where the primary purpose of the interception of e-mails or telephone calls is to collect foreign intelligence.

"Our decision recognizes that where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards to protect individuals against unwarranted harms and to minimize incidental intrusions, its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts," the chief judge, Bruce Selya, wrote in a 29-page opinion.

The case involved an unnamed telecommunications company that refused a government request in 2007 for surveillance. The company eventually complied under an order from Judge Reggie Walton, sitting on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but appealed his decision.