Upon a federal judge’s ruling that the Bush administration illegally wiretapped an Saudi-based Islamic charity and two American lawyers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times alleged the Bush administration’s entire warrantless surveillance program may have been illegal.
“Plaintiffs must Ã¢â‚¬â€ and have Ã¢â‚¬â€ put forward enough evidence to establish a prima facie case that they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance,” US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker declared Wednesday.
James Risen, who broke the story for the Times in 2005, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann Wednesday night that the ruling raises serious questions about the underpinnings of Bush’s entire war on terror.
“You could argue that virtually all the programs that the Bush Administration used, rendition, torture, wiretapping, you know, setting up secret prisons, all were in one form or another, an invasion of congressional power,” Risen said.
“If by saying the Bush Administration had no right to avoid congressional mandates and congressional legislation, that raises real questions about whether everything that the Bush Administration did on counterterrorism was illegal,” Risen added.
The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, has handled the case differently than his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, which may indicate that the Obama administration doesn’t have the same willingness to fight for the warrantless version of the program. But the ruling could expose what the Obama Administration has classified as “state secrets.”
“The Obama Administration, the way they broke with the Bush Administration on this was by saying we are going to abide by the court’s ruling,” Risen explained. “The Bush people were never going to.”
At the progressive blog Firedoglake, Marcy Wheeler speculates the judge “crafted his ruling to give the government a big incentive not to appeal the case.”
She notes that Walker denied the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation’s request for an alternative ruling based on the merits of the surveillance program, therefore allowing the government to keep a lid on the details of the program.
“I’m betting that the government will be willing to accept the ruling that it illegally wiretapped al-Haramain in exchange for the ability to leave details of how and what it did secret, leaving the claim of State Secrets largely intact,” Wheeler wrote.
Risen acknowledged this, too.
“They may not appeal this case, this ruling, which would leave on the books the idea that the NSA program was illegal.”
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast March 31, 2010.