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Another Reason Against Warrantless Wiretaps

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Well, this has the potential to suck.

Looks like going around FISA could have immediate ramifications. Because now that it’s established we’ve done this, it gives potential terrorists and terrorist supporters a chance to escape prosecution. In other words, when Bush does things that are legally dubious, he could actually be hurting the WOT.

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 – Defense lawyers in some of the country’s biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.

The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.

The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency’s domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration’s most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.

And when I say “immediate ramifications”, I mean immediate:

The first challenge is likely to come in Florida, where lawyers for two men charged with Jose Padilla, who is jailed as an enemy combatant, plan to file a motion as early as next week to determine if the N.S.A. program was used to gain incriminating information on their clients and their suspected ties to Al Qaeda. Kenneth Swartz, one of the lawyers in the case, said, “I think they absolutely have an obligation to tell us” whether the agency was wiretapping the defendants. In a Virginia case, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., a lawyer for Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim scholar in Alexandria who is serving a life sentence for inciting his young followers to wage war against the United States overseas, said the government’s explanation of how it came to suspect Mr. Timimi of terrorism ties never added up in his view.

It’ll be interesting to see this play out. Will the government start talking about these wiretaps or will they continue to remain silent? If I had to predict, I’d say they’ll stonewall and leave it up to the judge to decide. That should be an interesting legal question for he or she to answer.

More on this story as it develops further. But in the meantime, read the article and tell me what you think.