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Secret court upholds warrantless wiretapping

January 16, 2009 by  

A court vindicates the Bush administrationAn appeals court for the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has affirmed the use of warrantless wiretaps, a much-criticized measure that was introduced by the Bush administration.

The unclassified version of an August 2008 ruling was released on Thursday and responded to a challenge by an unnamed telecoms company to the Protect America Act of 2007.

This act gave the government the right to monitor phone calls and emails of suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court warrant.

Objections to the act suggested that it violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits "unreasonable search and seizure."

In its decision, the court said the requirement to obtain a warrant could slow down the government’s ability to collect time-sensitive information and potentially put Americans’ security at risk.

Although the Protect America Act expired in February, Congress has since passed a new law that permits surveillance and protects communications companies who participated in warrantless wiretapping from lawsuits.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established in 1978 to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations.
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