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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ongoing attempts to defy the 'unitary executive'

This article is worth reading if you haven't.
On July 3, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in California made a ruling particularly worthy of the nation's attention. In Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Bush, a key case in the epic battle over warrantless spying inside the United States, Judge Walker ruled, effectively, that President George W. Bush is a felon.

Judge Walker held that the president lacks the authority to disregard the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA -- which means Bush's warrantless electronic surveillance program was illegal. Whether Bush will ultimately be held accountable for violating federal law with the program remains unclear. Bush administration lawyers have fought vigorously -- at times using brazen, logic-defying tactics -- to prevent that from happening. The court battle will continue to play out as Congress continues to battle over recasting FISA and possibly granting immunity to telecom companies involved in the illegal surveillance.

The story of how Al-Haramain's lawyers negotiated the journey thus far to Judge Walker's ruling -- a team of seven lawyers that includes me -- sheds light on how much is at stake for the Bush administration and the country. It is a surreal saga, involving a top-secret document accidentally released by the government, a showdown between Bush lawyers and a federal judge, the violent destruction of a laptop computer by government agents, and possibly even the top-secret shredding of a banana peel.
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Our proof is a top-secret classified document, which the government accidentally gave to Al-Haramain's lawyers in August of 2004. We call it "the Document." It appeared in a stack of unclassified materials that the lawyers had requested from OFAC. Six weeks later, after the government realized its blunder, FBI agents personally visited each of the lawyers and made them return their copies of the Document. But the agents made no effort to retrieve copies that the lawyers had given to two members of Al-Haramain's board of directors, who lived outside the United States.

I can't publicly reveal what's in the Document because, well, it's a secret. I would be committing a crime -- a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 -- if I were to do so. But we assert the Document as proof of allegations we have made that in March and April of 2004 the National Security Agency conducted warrantless electronic surveillance of attorney-client communications between a representative of Al-Haramain and two of its attorneys, and that in May of 2004 the NSA gave logs of those surveilled communications to OFAC.

Suing George W. Bush: A bizarre and troubling tale

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