UPDATE: March 2, 2006The Washington Post has further details of this story.]
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Civil rights attorneys have sued the National Security Agency, claiming it illegally wiretapped conversations between the leaders of an Islamic charity that had been accused of aiding Muslim militants and two of its lawyers.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland asks that electronic surveillance by the NSA be shut down, arguing the agency illegally wiretapped electronic communications between a local chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, both attorneys in Washington, D.C.
It was only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia became an object of discussion in the current flap over warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. And now it also includes a frequent commenter at Crossroads Arabia, Wendell Belew, as this New York Times story relates.
My personal feelings about the wiretapping are mixed. As a citizen, it concerns me that my phonecalls become part of a government record, but I’m also strongly in favor of doing what is necessary to protect national–and therefore, my–security. While not a lawyer, I have studied Constitutional Law and keep current with it. This issue is a tricky one, with good arguments being made on both sides, but I generally support the Administration’s interpretation.
But laws–or their interpretation–can unjustly affect people and entities. This particular case involves the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, an organization surrounded by controversy. Several branches of that foundation have been shuttered around the world as the result of joint US-Saudi efforts, with both countries identifying terrorist-related branches to the UN.
Al-Haramain in Saudi Arabia, however, is not closed. According to this story,
Prosecutors later asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against the Ashland chapter, which was granted over the objections of attorneys for Al-Haramain, who wanted the government to show what evidence it had against the charity.
Because charges were dropped–though this in itself does not prove innocence–this matter differs from those that led to successful prosecutions.
But I’m not sure how this differs from the damages incurred by anyone who is investigated in a public manner. Reputations are hurt, regardless of guilt or innocence. Generally speaking, reparations are not paid for damages that occur as part of bona fide investigations.