The XX Factor

Judge Vaughn Walker Is Having a Moment

Judge Vaughn Walker is the 65-year-old Bush I appointee who presided over the same-sex marriage trial in January, and who we then learned was gay . Happily, no one fussed. As if that wasn’t enough action for one senior citizen federal judge, Walker has now issued a strong rebuke to the Obama and Bush administrations’ (yes, they march together on this) defense of wiretapping without a warrant. The case involves the wiretapping of domestic targets that the New York Times revealed in 2005. (The kind of outing that actually matters.) A few other suits have stumbled because the plaintiffs couldn’t prove they were actually wiretapped, because both administrations have invoked a blanket state secrets defense. But in the case before Judge Walker, the Islamic charity Al Haramain, which operated in Oregon and has since closed, has a leaked document showing that the government intercepted calls between its people and two lawyers representing it in 2004. What’s important here is that Walker faced down the state secrets mantra, calling it, as Charlie Savage and James Risen in the NYT note , “unfettered executive-branch discretion” with “obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.” The government will appeal. But it can’t make the case, or Walker’s principled stand, go away.