Thursday, March 02, 2006

Your Liberal Media


A classified document that an Islamic charity says is evidence of illegal government eavesdropping on its phone calls and e-mails was provided in 2004 to a Washington Post reporter, who returned it when the FBI demanded it back a few months later.

According to a source familiar with the case, the document indicated that the National Security Agency intercepted telephone conversations in the spring of 2004 between a director of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and lawyers for the foundation in the District.


At the same time, an attorney for al-Haramain, Wendell Belew, provided a copy of the document to Post reporter David B. Ottaway. Ottaway was researching Islamic groups and individuals who had been designated terrorists by the U.S. government and were attempting to prove their innocence.

In November 2004, FBI agents approached Belew, and soon thereafter Ottaway, saying that the government had mistakenly released the document. They demanded all copies back and warned that anyone who revealed its contents could be prosecuted.

Ottaway declined to discuss the contents of the document other than to confirm it appeared to be a summary of one or more conversations intercepted by the government.

"The FBI said that . . . it contained highly sensitive national security information," Ottaway said yesterday in a statement. "I returned it after consulting with Washington Post editors and lawyers, and concluding that it was not relevant to what I was working on at the time."


The suit contends that the government's interception of conversations between al-Haramain officer Suliman al-Buthe in Saudi Arabia and lawyers Belew and Asim Ghafoor in Washington violated the Fourth Amendment, attorney-client privilege and the federal law that requires a court warrant to tap certain domestic phone conversations.

Things unknown are unknown only to us it seems... I'm sure Joe Klein will be around to explain why government spying on the conversations between American lawyers and their clients without a court order* is A-OK.

*If this indeed turns out to be the case. It may not, in this case, but certainly the Bush administration has asserted its authority to do so.