Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's Illegal to Say You're Being Spied On ...

``That very fact - whether they were subject to surveillance - is a privileged fact,'' Tannenbaum said.

Judge to Rule Soon on Wiretap Lawsuit

Wednesday August 30, 2006 4:01 AM


Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A federal judge suggested Tuesday that he would try to keep alive a lawsuit that challenges President Bush's domestic wiretapping program, while taking steps not to disclose classified information.

U.S. District Judge Garr King said he expected to render his decision next week in a case involving an Oregon-based Islamic charity that the government said had links to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The charity believes it was illegally wiretapped and says a document the government accidentally gave to its lawyers in 2004 bolsters its case.

The government said the document must be kept secret and any further court action involving it would lead to security breaches. The government has asked King to dismiss the charity's lawsuit.

In a hearing, King and the charity's lawyers talked about ways to keep the lawsuit alive without disclosing information about the classified document. Government lawyers resisted the idea.

King said federal judges handling similar cases in which national security concerns and the rights of plaintiffs clashed had tried to find ways around the problem, such as editing sensitive documents.

``It seems to me the cases have instructed the courts to be original,'' King told lawyers from the Justice Department. ``I don't hear that from you at all.''

Justice Department lawyer Andrew Tannenbaum said that U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte had reviewed the case and determined that the government cannot confirm or deny information about intelligence-gathering without tipping its hand to terrorists.

``That very fact - whether they were subject to surveillance - is a privileged fact,'' Tannenbaum said.

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