SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – In a blow to civil liberties groups, the 9th Circuit has ruled that a document showing warrantless wiretapping of an Islamic foundation is a state secret. ruling.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled today in Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v Bush that the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program cannot be considered a “state secret,” but that nonetheless it had to exclude the Foundation’s evidence – a document that proved the government had spied upon the group without a warrant – because the document did fall under the state secrets privilege. The ruling was a blow to civil liberties groups that insist the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program is unconstitutional. The Oregon-based Foundation had convincing evidence that the government had spied upon it without a warrant – a document that the government mistakenly gave to it in 2004.
The circuit, however, did not rule on a claim more than 40 groups have leveled against telecommunications companies – the government wants information in those cases declared state secrets too.
Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel, which included Judges Harry Pregerson and Michael Daly Hawkins. The judges wrote that because of the worldwide publicity given to its domestic spying program, the program itself cannot be considered a state secret. The Bush administration claimed that even the subject of the lawsuits at hand is secret.
Reversed and remanded. See ruling.