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Ninth Circuit denies government appeal in wiretapping case

[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] Friday denied [opinion, PDF] an appeal by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] seeking to stop a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by an Islamic charity alleging it was the subject of an illegal wiretap by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website]. The denial upholds last month's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] by US District Judge Vaughn Walker allowing the case brought by the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation [JURIST news archive] to go forward. At the heart of the appeal was the Obama administration's fight to keep a classified document, a call log which allegedly shows the foundation had been wiretapped, secret. The call log had been deemed a state secret [SourceWatch backgrounder; JURIST report] but Vaughn's decision had ordered the government to allow the foundation to view the document. The DOJ had argued that allowing the lawsuit to proceed would jeopardize national security. While the denial of the appeal [AP report] appears to grant al-Haramain's lawyers access, the DOJ argued in a filing [San Francisco Chronicle report] just hours after the appeals court ruling that the original order has no authority.

The document was accidentally released to Al-Haramain in 2004 during the DOJ's investigation which ultimately lead to the foundation being classified as a terrorist organization. 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. Walker had previously dismissed the suit [JURIST report], finding that Al-Haramain 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].

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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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