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Federal judge lets Islamic foundation's surveillance suit proceed

[JURIST] A federal judge in Oregon has allowed a lawsuit by the US branch of the Saudi Arabia-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation [Wikipedia profile] to proceed against the US government over the warrantless wiretapping [JURIST news archive] of communications between the foundation and its attorneys. On Thursday, Judge Garr King of US District Court in Portland denied the government's motion to dismiss [opinion, PDF] pursuant to the state secrets privilege [Sourcewatch backgrounder], stating that there is "no reasonable danger that national security would be harmed if it is confirmed or denied that plaintiffs were subject to surveillance." The foundation's case appears stronger than similar suits pending in Detroit and New York because the government accidentally provided the foundation with a log of communications that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] had obtained through warrantless surveillance.

The foundation filed its complaint in February [JURIST report] after a series of encounters with the US government. In September 2004, the Treasury Department announced [press release] that the foundation had "direct links between the US branch and Osama bin Laden," and in February 2005, the foundation was indicted [US DOJ press release] for allegedly concealing a transfer of $150,000 to Chechen rebels. The United States and Saudi Arabia froze the assets [Treasury Department press release] of the Bosnian and Somalian branches of the foundation in March 2002.

Last month, a federal judge in Michigan held the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program unconstitutional [JURIST report], ordering an injunction [PDF text] against the NSA. The Bush administration has appealed [JURIST report]. The New York Times has more. From Portland, the Oregonian has local coverage.

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