The Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation’s suit against the U.S. government for warrantless electronic surveillance will keep chugging along, courtesy of a three-sentence ruling (.pdf) handed down today by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The court denied an emergency motion filed a week ago by the Department of Justice, which wanted to pause the al-Haramain case and get the Ninth Circuit to review a key point of law. The litigation now returns to Northern District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s court.
Tony Coppolino, one of the government’s lead trial attorneys, did not return a call seeking comment. But with a separate DOJ brief due in Walker’s court by midnight, al-Haramain attorney Jon Eisenberg said on Friday afternoon that he was waiting to see what direction the department would take.
By tonight, the government had filed that brief (.pdf), and it appeared the direction hadn't changed much: The DOJ is still asking Walker not to disclose any classified information to the plaintiffs without giving the government a chance to fight further.
The DOJ had sought a stay and an appeal in the wake of a decision Walker made in January, in which he wrote that he planned to review a classified government document accidentally disclosed to Al-Haramain in 2004 in order to decide whether the now-defunct international charity had been spied upon. According to a Washington Post reporter who saw the document, it contained "a summary of one or more conversations intercepted by the government." Eisenberg has theorized in court motions that the government listened in on conversations between U.S.-based al-Haramain lawyers and a charity official who was staying in Saudi Arabia.
— Evan Hill