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Government appeals wiretapping decision 

Reuters | October 14 2006

The Bush administration on Friday appealed a federal judge's ruling this summer that a controversial post-September 11, 2001, domestic spying program was illegal.

The Justice Department, in documents filed with a federal court in Cincinnati, argued that President George W. Bush had acted within the law in authorizing the surveillance of domestic wiretaps of international telephone calls.

In its appeal, the government stated that the federal judge's ruling "dismantles a tool that already has helped detect and disrupt al Qaeda plots."

It stated that U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision directly conflicts with the Supreme Court's direction to "proceed with great caution in resolving challenges in this extraordinarily sensitive context."

Nearly a year ago, media reports revealed the existence of the domestic spying by the National Security Agency.

Civil libertarians, including the ACLU, which brought the suit, have argued the government could gain the same type of intelligence information through warrants.

Judge Taylor ruled in August that NSA's five-year-old surveillance program, implemented as part of the government's war on terrorism, violates the civil rights of Americans because the government does not have to present justification for its monitoring in court and obtain a warrant.

In its appeal, the government argued the surveillance program was narrowly targeted and thus did not violate Americans' constitutional rights, while being an effective tool in stopping potential terrorist attacks.

The expedited appeal called for the government to submit its arguments to the appeals court by Friday, with a response due a month later.

The losing side is almost certain to appeal to the Supreme Court, which is likely to take up the case.

Earlier this month, an appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that the Bush administration's wiretap program can continue pending the government's appeal.

In late September, the House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing President George W. Bush's domestic spying program. But the measure stalled in the Senate and Congress is now on a long election-year recess.

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