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Week of 8.18.06

Tara McKelvey on Wiretapping Ruling

Video icon Video: Wiretapping Setback & Dancing with Wolves

Tara McKelvey is one of the plaintiffs in the case decided by a federal judge on Thursday (August 17), ruling that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional.

After the ruling, McKelvey—who is a senior editor at the American Prospect Magazine—told NOW that she was relieved by the decision as she has feared for the safety of her sources under the controversial program.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit found that the National Security Agency's eavesdropping practices violated the rights to free speech and privacy.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard... the Bill of Rights." Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

Under the program, approved by President Bush in 2001 following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the government monitored conversations between people in the U.S and those in other countries. In her ruling, Taylor ordered the practice to be stopped immediately.

The U.S. Justice Department has appealed the decision and issued a statement calling the program "an essential tool for the intelligence community in the war terror." It added that the department believes the program is lawful and protects civil liberties.

After the program was uncovered by the New York Times in December 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who said the program made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believed that many of their contacts overseas could be targets of the program.

"At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms the system of checks and balances that's necessary to our democracy," the executive director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, told reporters after the ruling.

Read the full ruling [pdf]

More from NOW: Democracy in Danger?