Thursday, March 02, 2006

Saudi charity alleges NSA spied on it

A defunct Saudi charity is suing the government, saying that conversations with its lawyers were illegally intercepted by the NSA.
According to a source familiar with the case, the records indicate that the National Security Agency intercepted several conversations in March and April 2004 between al-Haramain's director, who was in Saudi Arabia, and two U.S. citizens in Washington who were working as lawyers for the organization.

The charity in question isn't exactly squeaky clean:
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control froze the foundation's U.S. assets in February 2004, pending an investigation, and designated it a terrorist organization in September 2004, citing ties to Osama bin Laden. Al-Haramain was indicted in February 2005 on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to funnel money to Chechen fighters. The charges were later dropped because the Oregon branch of the organization had shut down.

But unproven allegations and suspicions don't justify warrantless eavesdropping or monitoring lawyer-client conversations. It's important to note that the alleged monitoring took place *before* the group was designated a terrorist organization.

I am not suggesting that we shouldn't eavesdrop on people who pose a potential threat. I merely think that the government should have to get a warrant to do so, ensuring that there is at least some evidence to justify the eavesdropping. Otherwise the government can spy on anyone it wants to, for any reason.

In a later post I will outline why you should be concerned about this, even if you feel you have nothing to hide.

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