Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHIF) v. Bush was filed in 2006 after attorneys for the charity found records of the warrantless wiretap in documents the government provided in other litigation involving the charity. The case is the only legal challenge to Bush-era illegal surveillance programs that had survived in court, because AHIF and its lawyers were able to show they had been subjected to unwarranted surveillance by using public records and statements.
Two American attorneys have decided not to appeal an Aug. 7, 2012 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled although the U.S. government violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) when it wiretapped their conversations with foreign clients without court approval, it is protected from paying damages by the sovereign immunity doctrine. A petition for rehearing was denied on Dec. 5, 2012. They will not appeal to the Supreme Court, attorneys in the case said on Jan. 3, 2013, in order to limit the precedent set to the Ninth Circuit.
In an Aug. 7, 2012 decision the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that although the U.S. government violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) when it wiretapped two American attorneys without court approval, it is protected from paying damages by the sovereign immunity doctrine. This ruling was upheld in December 2012.
In December 2010, a federal judge had ordered the government to pay nearly $2.5 million in legal fees and damages for “unlawful surveillance” of phone calls between leaders of the now defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHIF) and its attorneys. In March 2010, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern Federal District of California had ruled the government’s interception of telephone communications between AHIF lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor to be “outside of the bounds of judicial scrutiny and in conflict with surveillance rules set by congress.” Lawyers for AHIF had asked the court to turn over AHIF’s share of the damages to charitable organizations.