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Judge Says Feds Illegally Spied on Islamic Charity

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge ruled that the government illegally spied on members of the former Oregon-based charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation after suspecting it of terrorist activity in 2004.

The government admittedly relied on the surveillance of phone conversations between two of the non-profit's lawyers and an Al-Haramain director in Saudi Arabia when it designated the group as a terrorist organization associated with Osama bin Laden.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the government's warrantless wiretapping of the lawyers' phones violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Walker found Al-Haramain presented ample evidence in the form of public documents and statements from FBI officials proving that "the program itself is not a secret," and the government provided no evidence to refute.

"The defendants' possession of the exclusive knowledge of whether or not a FISA warrant was obtained, creates such grave concerns that defendants must be deemed estopped from arguing that a warrant might have existed or, conversely, must be deemed to have admitted no warrant existed," Walker said.

Walker said Al-Haramain can file a request for damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

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