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Federal judge revives Islamic charity warrantless wiretapping lawsuit

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a lawsuit brought by an Islamic charity that alleged it was the subject of an illegal wiretap by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] may proceed. Judge Vaughn Walker had previously dismissed the suit [JURIST report], finding that the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation [JURIST news archive] lacked a cause of action because the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] trumped procedural requirements under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive]. In Monday's ruling, Walker revived the lawsuit, finding that plaintiffs had enough information so that they could reasonably believe they had been subjected to illegal wiretapping and that certain classified documents should now be reviewed. According to Walker's order:

the court will review the Sealed Document ex parte and in camera. The court will then issue an order regarding whether plaintiffs may proceed - that is, whether the Sealed Document establishes that plaintiffs were subject to electronic surveillance not authorized by FISA.
The original lawsuit [JURIST report], filed by the foundation in February 2006, alleged that the NSA illegally taped several conversations between the charity and its lawyers. In September 2006, lawyers for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to reverse a district court ruling rejecting arguments [JURIST reports] that the proceeding would reveal state secrets, allowing the charity's lawsuit to proceed. In November 2007, the Ninth Circuit reversed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the lower court ruling and remanded the case back to the trial court.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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