In a landmark case, Chief Judge Walker of the San Francisco federal district court ruled in favor of an Islamic charity against the government, finding that the National Security Agency conducted illegal wiretaps.
The judge granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs in Al-Haramain v. Obama on the grounds that Al-Haramain made a sufficient case, using only public evidence, that the government had tapped its phones.
The government refused to confirm or deny that it had a warrant, which the judge ruled was equivalent to failing to show up to court.
The reason why this ruling is so important is because it speaks out against a pretty terrible Bush Administration policy which Obama adopted. The “states secrets privileges” theory states that only the Executive Branch of the government can determine whether a case against the government can go to court – all the government has to do is say that something is an issue of national security, and then there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Judge Walker’s ruling (available here as a PDF) states that the concept of SSP is ridden with holes as the government can simply use it to avoid obtaining a warrant as directed in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Walker goes further to say that SSP is essentially a massive legal loophole which allows the government to spy on people and organizations as it pleases.