The smell of victory: A federal judge ruled Wednesday that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charit
March 31, 2010

The smell of victory:

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs have provided enough evidence to show "they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance."

The judge ordered more legal arguments before deciding damages. Lawyers were seeking $1 million for each plaintiff plus attorney fees. The ruling also stands as repudiation of the now-defunct Bush administration's Terrorist Surveillance Program.

At issue was a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Ashland, Ore., branch of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and two American lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor.

Belew and Ghafoor claimed their 2004 phone conversations with foundation official Soliman al-Buthi were wiretapped without warrants soon after the Treasury Department had declared the Oregon branch a supporter of terrorism. They argued that wiretaps installed without a judge's authorization are illegal.

Jon Eisenberg, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the complicated 45-page ruling holds the Bush administration program was unconstitutional.

mcjoan has a little more.

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