By Joe Kay:
US court rules NSA spying program unconstitutional
Bush appeals decision and denounces judge
19 August 2006
In a sharply worded decision, a federal judge ruled on Thursday that a program set up by the Bush administration to monitor phone calls and emails of US citizens without court-issued warrants violates a federal statute and the US Constitution.
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the US District Court in Detroit ruled that the program, operated by the National Security Agency (NSA) since 2001, violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, the separation of powers principle laid out in the Constitution, and a 1978 law enacted to regulate domestic spying by the government.
As a consequence, she ruled that the program must be stopped.
In a blunt rebuke to the Bush administration’s assertion of virtually unlimited presidential powers, Taylor wrote that the government “appears to argue here that … because the president is designated commander in chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress, but the First and Fourth Amendment of the Constitution itself….
There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.”
The Bush administration immediately announced that it would appeal the decision and filed a brief calling on the judge to stay her ruling pending the outcome of legal appeals.
A hearing on the request for a stay was scheduled for September 7.
In the meantime, the NSA surveillance program will be allowed to continue on the basis of an agreement reached between the chief plaintiff, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the US Justice Department.
The administration denounced the ruling, reiterating its position that the president has quasi-dictatorial powers, including the right to ignore federal laws and secretly wiretap Americans, by virtue of his position as commander in chief in the “war on terror.”