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Warrantless Wiretaps and Searches

Should the United Stated Conduct Them on U. S. Citizens?

The controversy over warrantless wiretaps and searches being conducted on U. S. citizens has been very heated since the Patriot Act was passed just weeks after the September 11th terrorist attack. President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens as well as others living in this country. International telephone calls and international e-mail messages were being monitored. Those who defend these actions say it is critical in helping to stop terrorist activities. However, the Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effect against unreasonable searches and seizures. These rights are not to be violated without the proper use of warrants.

While I understand the necessity of protecting our country against terrorists, I strongly feel our civil rights and liberties as United States citizens are being violated. The Patriot Act allows the FBI to secretly conduct a physical search or wiretap on American citizens to obtain evidence of a crime without proving probable cause. The Fourth Amendment explicitly requires that this be done. Other provisions in the Patriot Act lets the CIA also spy of Americans as in the 1970’s when they spied on American protestors and other groups. It created a new crime called “domestic terrorism”.

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History may repeat itself if we don’t learn from our previous mistakes. George Santayana stated, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Today is being compared to the 1970’s when Americans who were law-abiding citizens were being harassed by the FBI. From the 1950’s to the 1970’s the FBI spied on many American groups. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was investigated and spied on for several decades. They were trying to find information to destroy his reputation. In 1976 protective guidelines were made to stop these illegal practices.

Then in 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft wanted to change these Guidelines. The old Guidelines were replace with new ones that removed protections and granted FBI agents more spying powers. Now the FBI is using their investigatory powers to spy on innocent American citizens. As before, we are in an era of unwarranted surveillance and harassment. Do you think we are no any safer? The answer is definitely “no”. Instead of focusing on catching or seeking out the terrorists, the FBI spends its time going through information they have retrieved from spying on innocent Americans. One example was the monitoring of Environmental and Animal Rights Activism. The only information obtained was the discussion of upcoming events that were significant to their cause. Another time, they monitored forty people who were gathered at a political bookstore to car-pool to an anti-war rally. These things are not a threat to the safety of our country and is an invasion of their civil rights. Without proper monitoring, there is no way to know how much of law-abiding Americans’ personal information ends up in some governmental database. This information can then be shared with state, local, federal and even foreign agencies.

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According to an article in Information Clearing House, the American Bar Association accused President Bush of violating both the Constitution and federal law. “The NSA domestic surveillance program is in direct conflict with this detailed statutory scheme. Under the criteria set forth in Justice Jackson’s famous concurring opinion in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer, in these circumstances the President’s inherent power is at its “lowest ebb.” To sustain the President’s power here a court would have to find that such power was “beyond control by Congress.” In other words, the President’s authority must be not just inherent but exclusive.” Separation of governmental powers is essential to the preservation of liberty.

Even though the American Bar Association has stood beside the President in the fight against terrorism, they feel we must protect our Constitution and defend the rule of the law. The government should be on constant guard against excessive use of power that could destroy our rights and liberties. Our constitutional freedoms should not become a victim in our fight against terrorism.

This past October, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to let the executive branch conduct interceptions of electronic cmmunications of people in the United States. At the same time, they also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuit’s the charged them with collaborating with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal laws. They proposed a bill to legitimize blanket wiretapping without individual warrants. This directly conflicts with the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment requires the government to get a warrant before they can read anyone’s em-mail messages or listen to telephone calls. The warrant must

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State where they are going to search and what they expect to find.

There have been many myths and falsehoods told regarding the Bush administration’s spying and surveillance tactics. For instance, one is “warrantless searches of Americans are legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”. This is not true. It specifically states that “the President may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order only if there is no substantial likelihood that the communications of a United States person -- a U.S. citizen or anyone else legally in the United States -- will be intercepted. Such provisions do not allow for the Bush administration’s authorization of domestic surveillance of communications between persons inside the United States and parties outside the country.” There are several other myths mentioned on website.

When Bush first authorized the surveillances shortly after the 9-11 attack, most monitoring of domestic telephone conversations, e-mails and faxes were those of individuals who had been identified by the NSA as being connected to al Qaeda or other potential terrorism-related activities in the United States. However, many



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