NSA wiretapping program can continue

Appeals court allows the Bush administration's surveillance to proceed while waiting for an appeal on an earlier ruling

A U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping program can continue while President George Bush's administration appeals a ruling by a Michigan judge who said the program was illegal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in an order released Wednesday, said the Bush administration successfully argued that the program would be irreparably harmed if it were shut down pending the government's appeal of the earlier ruling.

On Aug. 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the program, used to wiretap telephone and Internet traffic without court-issued warrants, was illegal and should be halted immediately. The NSA program has allegedly listened in on U.S. residents' conversations with people who have suspected terrorism links.

Several lawsuits have targeted the NSA program. In addition to the Michigan lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and others, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other groups have brought lawsuits being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. A judge there has ruled against the U.S. government and AT&T Inc., which had requested the EFF case be thrown out.

In the Michigan appeal, a three-judge panel issued a two-page ruling Wednesday, saying simply the Bush administration's arguments had met the standard for a stay of Taylor's ruling. Among the panel's considerations were the likelihood the Bush administration could win on appeal, whether the program and the U.S. government would be irreparably harmed, and the public interest, the judges wrote.

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