Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Little Late But Still Good

This is good.

In the strongest legal repudiation yet of the George W. Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency acted illegally by eavesdropping on the phone conversations of two American lawyers and an Islamic charity.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker said that the lawyers and the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation — plaintiffs in a high-profile lawsuit challenging the now-abandoned Terrorist Surveillance Program — are entitled to damages because of the government’s actions.

President Obama’s Justice Department followed the Bush administration’s strategy of asserting a “state-secrets privilege” to try to stop the case, a tactic that provoked an outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union and other public policy groups. The effort by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. marked the first time that the Obama administration tried to invoke the privilege.

Bush secretly authorized the surveillance program shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and ended it in 2007. The program allowed National Security Agency officials to bypass the courts and to intercept electronic communications believed to be connected to al-Qaeda.

It’s a little late, and I have the feeling that the Justice Department will keep on fighting it, but it’s better than having “if the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal” set as a legal precedent. Suck on it, John Yoo.