Appeals court tosses warrantless wiretapping suit
A federal appeals court has overturned a court decision awarding $40,800 in damages and $2.5 million in legal fees to an Islamic charity's lawyers who claimed they were illegally surveilled under President George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.
A unanimous, three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the lawyers for the Al-Haramin Islamic Foundation could not recover damages, or the related legal fees, because Congress never explicitly waived sovereign immunity — a legal doctrine which limits lawsuits for money damages against the federal government to cases specifically authorized by law.
"It is well understood that any waiver of sovereign immunity must be unequivocally expressed. Section 1810 [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not include an explicit waiver of immunity, nor is it appropriate to imply such a waiver," Judge Margaret McKeown wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Harry Pregerson and Michael Dawkins. (A copy of the opinion is posted here.)