US Illegally Wiretapped Islamic Charity: Judge

Case finds Bush taps unconstitutional
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2010 4:45 PM CDT
US Illegally Wiretapped Islamic Charity: Judge
Pete Seda, left, the head of Saudi charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation speaks to students about peace during a panel discussion Sept. 11, 2002, at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore.   (AP Photo/Ashland Daily Tidings, Myles Murphy)

A federal judge ruled today that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant. US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs have provided enough evidence to show "they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance." The judge ordered more legal arguments before deciding damages. Lawyers were seeking $1 million for each plaintiff plus attorney fees.

The ruling stands as repudiation of the now-defunct Bush administration's Terrorist Surveillance Program. The lawsuit was filed by an Oregon branch of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and two American lawyers, Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor. The lawyers claimed their 2004 phone conversations with a foundation official were wiretapped without warrants soon after the Treasury Department had declared the charity a supporter of terrorism. (More warrantless wiretapping stories.)

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