Judge tosses wiretapping cases

Associated Press / June 4, 2009
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SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge yesterday tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits filed against the nation's telecommunications companies for allegedly taking part in a government e-mail and telephone eavesdropping program that was done without court approval.

In addition, he ordered officials in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and Missouri to halt investigations of the telecommunications companies for their alleged participation in the surveillance.

US District Judge Vaughn Walker deferred a decision on whether to sanction the government for refusing to turn over a secret document in one of the few cases still pending.

The dismissals were widely expected after Congress in July agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the United States spy on Americans without warrants during the Bush administration.

Walker upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules yesterday. Lawyers for the telecom customers said they would appeal.

Also yesterday, Walker deferred a decision on the government's continued refusal to turn over an apparent log of calls that the US-based arm of an Islamic charity says shows it was the subject of warrantless wiretaps.