Yesterday, following on his ruling this Spring that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of an Islamic charity's lawyers in 2004 violated federal surveillance law, Judge Vaughn Walker in the Northern District of California federal court issued his final order in the case of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama. The order granted the plaintiffs an award of $2.5 million in money damages and well-earned attorneys' fees for the government's violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the same law underlying many of the claims in EFF's ongoing lawsuits against the NSA's mass surveillance program, Hepting v. AT&T and Jewel v. NSA. As one of the plaintiffs said of the ruling to the Associated Press, "the system worked."
The system has indeed workedfor the two attorneys wiretapped in this case as part of the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program" that the government has admitted to. But, as EFF has alleged in its cases based on widespread news reports and whistleblower evidence, the full scope of the NSA's warrantless wiretappingcryptically referred to as "Other Intelligence Activities" in the Inspectors General report on the broader President's Surveillance Programimplicates the privacy rights of millions of Americans, rights that EFF is still seeking to vindicate in its lawsuits on behalf of AT&T customers. Both the Jewel and Hepting cases are currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and awaiting the scheduling of oral argument; depending on whether the government appeals yesterday's decision, the Al-Haramain case may soon be joining them.