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Administration Appeals Spy Suit Ruling

AP | Aug 1 2006

The Bush administration appealed a court decision Monday that allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging the president's warrantless domestic spying program.

In rejecting government claims that the suit could expose state secrets and jeopardize the war on terror, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled July 20 that the eavesdropping was so widely reported there appears to be no danger of spilling secrets. Walker also said he did not see how allowing the lawsuit to continue could threaten national security.

The case, which names AT&T Inc. as a defendant, is among three dozen lawsuits alleging telecommunications companies and the government are illegally intercepting communications without warrants. Walker is the only judge to rule against the government's claim of a "state secrets privilege."

A federal judge in Chicago dismissed a similar case last week, agreeing the government could invoke the privilege the U.S. Supreme Court first recognized in the McCarthy era.

The San Francisco lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation privacy group challenges President Bush's assertion that he can use his wartime powers to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant. It accuses AT&T of illegally making communications on its networks available to the National Security Agency.

The government argued in court papers filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Walker's ruling "placed at risk particularly sensitive national security interests."

Bush confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting warrantless surveillance of calls and e-mails thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists if at least one of the parties is outside the United States. The White House contends the program is legal and necessary.

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