Judge Asked to Suspend Ruling Against Wiretaps

Bloomberg News
Saturday, September 2, 2006

The Bush administration asked a federal judge yesterday to suspend her order barring eavesdropping on suspected terrorists, saying any halt in the surveillance would leave the nation more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to put her ruling on hold while the government appeals it. The judge on Aug. 17 barred government surveillance of suspected al-Qaeda operatives' telephone calls to and from the United States without court warrants.

The decision "threatens the gravest of harms to the government and to the American public," leaving the nation "more vulnerable to terrorist attack," the Justice Department said in papers filed in federal court in Detroit.

Taylor ruled that the surveillance broke federal law and violated the Constitution's prohibition on unreasonable searches. On the day of her ruling, the judge agreed not to implement it until the government has had a chance to seek a longer-term delay pending an appeal. She has scheduled a Sept. 28 hearing on the government's request.

Eavesdropping on suspected al-Qaeda operatives is "an early warning system to help avert the next attack," the Justice Department said.

The government also filed in secret a statement from Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, detailing the harm to U.S. security that the government argued would occur if the surveillance were halted.

Taylor's ruling in a lawsuit by journalists and advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said President Bush violated the Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine by failing to seek court approval of the surveillance.

The government said it is entitled to a suspension of Taylor's order because "there is a substantial likelihood of prevailing on a number of issues" when the case is appealed.

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