This is fairly amazing: Justice Dept. snubs federal judge's ruling.
In a parting shot, the Bush administration's Justice Department shrugged off a San Francisco federal judge's order to make a classified document available to lawyers for an Islamic group challenging the legality of the outgoing president's secret wiretapping program.
National security officials, not judges, must decide whether private citizens – even those with security clearances – are entitled to see classified material, Justice Department lawyers said in a filing Monday night.
At the heart of the case is a document that purportedly showed the government monitored Al-Haramain's overseas calls in 2004 before classifying it as a terrorist group. The National Security Agency accidentally sent a copy to Al-Haramain in 2005, but the Islamic group, a charity that has since ceased operations, returned the document at the agency's request and is barred from revealing its contents.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Jan. 5 that Al-Haramain could proceed with its case, saying government statements showed that the group had probably been wiretapped.
Government lawyers asked Walker's permission to appeal his ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco – an appeal they had already filed without his permission Friday – and did not say explicitly that they would withhold the classified document regardless of his orders.
One to watch to see if the new administration takes a different view. The next hearing is tomorrow.