At the beginning of the month, President Bush signed a new law that broadly expands the government’s authority to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens’ telephone calls and email messages without warrants. The Protect America Act of 2007 allows surveillance when authorities “reasonably believe” that communications between individuals inside the U.S. are with an overseas target.
The new law allows the National Security Agency thelegal basis to continue a controversial program which bypassed the process of obtaining search warrants for wiretaps. Critics of the program argue that it violates Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. FISA was passed as a response to abuses uncovered by the Watergate investigation where the U.S. government illegally spied on U.S. citizens.
With pressure from the White House, the legislation was rushed through the House and Senate in the final days before the August recess. The administration argued that FISA was severely outdated and did not address important developments in technology. Supporters of the new law argue that it is crucial for the intelligence community in combating terrorism during a period of heightened threat.
Does this newly authorized program conflict with the Constitution? Is it a threat to our civil liberties? Will it lead to an abuse of power by the Executive Branch? Should our system of checks and balances be allowed tothreaten the speed and agility of intelligence gathering on potential terrorists?
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.