Home > Pre Pulse Ramblings, Terrorism > Al-Haramain vs. Bush Admin

Al-Haramain vs. Bush Admin

This is a very important case that nobody is paying attention to.  No matter what the decision the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Not many people have heard of a court case that goes by the name Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. George W. Bush. But it’s at the center of an epochal struggle over terrorism, surveillance, and the United States Constitution that’s currently being played out in the courts.

On August 15, 2007, the Al-Haramain case made its way to San Francisco, where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments prior to making a ruling — a ruling that (no matter which way it goes) will inevitably be appealed to the Supreme Court, where it will be settled once and for all.

I was there to witness the action that day. Yet in the preparation of this photo essay I learned more about the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation than I ever expected. So:

This page will serve as both a first-person account of what happened on August 15 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and as a research archive for anyone interested in the Al-Haramain case.

Summary of the Case

What’s it all about? In one sentence, it comes down to this:

Does the United States Government have the right to conduct secret surveillance of terrorism suspects on American soil?

But the case has become rather more complicated than that. Before we get to the action of August 15, here’s the gist of the case in a few short paragraphs, cutting through everyone’s double-talk on both sides, and granting everyone’s allegations to be true:

A Saudi charity known to finance terrorist activities opened a branch in Oregon. The US government tapped the phones of the Oregon branch and heard evidence that they were helping to finance terrorist activities as well. With this info in hand, the government designated the Oregon branch as terrorists, and froze their assets. The Oregon branch, unaware that they had been sureveilled and that the government had solid evidence against them, challenged this, and during legal proceedings, a government employee accidentally gave logs of the tapped phone conversations to the charity’s lawyers.

At that point, the case changed gears: the charity hooked up with liberal lawyers to challenge the very legality of the surveillance, and by extension the legality of all secret surveillance. The decision was made to make the trial into a test case designed to weaken and embarrass the Bush administration. The government sought to circumvent this strategy by suppressing the evidence of the leaked document on grounds that its exposure would endanger national security. The governement requested back and eventually obtained all U.S. copies of the surveillance logs — but not before un unknown number of copies made their way overseas, presumably into hostile hands. Aside from revealing the fact that the charity was surveilled, it is not clear what “operational details” the document reveals. The government refuses to admit to the wiretapping or to say whether or not a warrant was obtained.

The entire case, as it is now being litigated, hinges on the question: do the plaintiffs even have the legal right to sue the government? In order to prove they have “standing,” they must prove they were surveilled; and so must refer to the only evidence which proves this, the mysterious document. The government claims the document is Top Secret, and thus not admissable evidence. It is this question that was being argued to the Ninth Circuit Court on August 15.



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