ACLU urges court to uphold wiretap ruling

Nov. 15, 2006 at 11:08 AM
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DETROIT, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The ACLU Tuesday appealed to a U.S. federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling against a National Security Agency wiretap program.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan made the call about an Eastern Michigan District Court ruling on Aug. 17 that had stated the Bush administration's warrantless National Security Agency wiretapping program was illegal.

"Executive spying on Americans without a warrant is precisely the kind of illegal practice that the founders of our country designed the Constitution to prevent," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. "In a democracy, no one is above the law, not even the president."

President George W. Bush in 2001 secretly ordered the NSA to monitor phone conversations and emails of people within the United States, including U.S. citizens, without a warrant, the ACLU said.

The administration has argued the surveillance was only of incoming and outgoing communications of people suspected of having terrorist connections and was necessitated by the need to obtain information quickly given the nature of the war on terror and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The ACLU said the Aug. 17 decision was "the first and only ruling by a federal court to strike down the controversial program." In the ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal.

"There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution," Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said in her opinion.

"Judge Taylor found that the program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was passed in the 1970s to curb executive abuses that included spying on civil rights leaders and Members of Congress," the ACLU said. "FISA requires a warrant before the executive can wiretap Americans. ... The government appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted a stay of the decision pending appeal."

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