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Obama must end warrantless wiretapping

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When the government failed to get a warrant to wiretap, it broke the law.The chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, ruled last week that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was the law of the land for Mr. Bush and that when the government failed to get a warrant to wiretap, it broke the law. He also said that the government could not evade accountability with absurdly broad claims of state secrets.

This ruling does not end warrantless wiretapping. The particular program The Times uncovered has been suspended; there are still others, however, and the 2008 FISA amendments permit warrantless spying. Judge Walker’s ruling establishes that state secrecy claims do not trump the requirements of FISA. The next big case, filed by several human rights groups and still being appealed, challenges the 2008 amendments.

Judge Walker’s ruling also provides a chilling account of the relentless efforts by the Bush administration and then the Obama administration to kill the civil lawsuit filed by an Islamic charity in Oregon called Al Haramain. The group was subjected to warrantless surveillance and then declared a sponsor of terrorism in 2004.

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