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Justice Dept. Attorneys Face Possible Sanctions In Calif. Wiretap Case

The government could get burned in this legal game of chess.

calif-mapdataEvan Hill
Law.com

Government lawyers trying to fend off a much-watched warrantless wiretapping case in federal court now face sanctions and the possibility of a judgment that the United States committed illegal surveillance, following an order filed on Friday by Northern District of California Chief Judge Vaughn Walker.

Walker, bringing to a head months of volleying between the government, the plaintiffs and himself, ordered Justice Department lawyers to explain why he should not essentially enter a default judgment against the government for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by spying on the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.

The government has refused to obey court orders by repeatedly stonewalling Walker’s attempt to move the case forward, Walker wrote.

If he rules as threatened, Al-Haramain would win without forcing the government to acknowledge surveillance.

“In some ways, this might be entirely satisfactory to the government,” said Jon Eisenberg, who represents the defunct Islamic charity.

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