Friday, September 08, 2006

Another NSA lawsuit proceeds

An Oregon judge is allowing another suit challenging the NSA eavesdropping program to go through.

U.S. District Judge Garr King said he believes there may be a way for the lawsuit, filed by a now-defunct Islamic charity, to proceed without releasing information that could harm national security.

The lawsuit was filed by the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which had a chapter in Ashland that went out of business after the U.S. government labeled it a terrorist organization.

The foundation charged that two of its lawyers and at least one official were under electronic surveillance in March and April 2004. The foundation asked King to rule the surveillance a violation of a federal law that requires a special court to approve intelligence-related wiretapping.

This is different from the ACLU suit in Detroit, which led to a judge ordering the program shut down -- a ruling that has been suspended pending appeal.

What makes this case interesting is that the plaintiffs seem to have a very good chance of showing proper standing for the suit, as well as the ability to argue that a trial would not compromise national security. Here's why:

The Portland case turns on what King called the "Sealed Document," information that government lawyers accidentally gave Al-Haramain lawyers in 2004 before demanding it back. King said the document is now in a secure room at the FBI's Portland office.

Al-Haramain's attorneys want to use the document to make their case, but the government says any use of it will compromise state secrets.

King said the document remains classified, despite its disclosure to the plaintiffs and to a reporter from the Washington Post.

This would seem to indicate that there is proof the charity was monitored, essentially proving they have standing; and it would seem to obviate much of the security argument, because the information is already out of the bag.

We shall see.

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