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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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  • Bob Livingston

    No surprise here! In 2007 Bush & Company officially did away with Habeas Corpus. Few Americans even knew it or protested. Freedom of the individual and personal liberty are gone in America. This warrantless wire tapping is only an indicator of more to come. As we get toward the end of this regime and the collapse of its monetary system, suppression of this nature will be compounded. Get ready! Forget about the Constitution and make plans to live in the real world. Try to survive for yourself and your family.

    • Eddie

      The constitution has already been trampled on by none other than the Unied States Supreme Court, The United States Senate, The United States Congress, and the President. When they elected Barack Hussein to the presidency of YOUR country and MY country. As you say, ZUJ (STAND BY) !

  • James

    Freedom gone, really? Funny, everyone that I know seems to be doing exactly the same things that they were before 2007, so where exactly is this monumental sea-change that these words would suggest? I am well aware of the potential abuses of these changes, but anyone who imagined that these abuses were not an option prior to these law changes is kidding themself, because they have happened many times in the past. This kind of alarmist, hyperbolic language will only preach to the choir. That a potential slippery slope exists is beyond doubt, and the slide is 100 times easier to prevent than reverse, but I would suggest that you at least conform your choice of words to reality and the common use of the English lexicon.
    Regarding the reason for these law changes, if anyone has a better solution for fixing the problem of the terrorists that want to kill us, they should post it here. Among the “solutions” I have heard are one variation or another of the “pretty-please-with sugar-on-it stop what-you-are-doing” or “nobody’s right, nobody’s wrong, we all just have to learn how to get along” liberal utopian thought, and the withdraw from the world and secure our borders isolationist survivalist thinking. The first would result in a western Europe result, only worse, and the second would return us to late 19th century standards of living, including something close to the average life spans and infant mortality rates of that era. And that is giving those plans a much simplified, benefit of the doubt.
    I don’t complain about these law changes as much as I might like, primarily because I don’t have a better solution. I still think that the United States is the best place on earth, even with these laws, and apparently many from other parts of the world agree. In saying this, I am not defending the idea that these law changes are good, only that I have nothing better to offer, but I would be more than willing to entertain the idea that we were better off before them, providing that someone would give me a sensible reason to think so. I have many insensible reasons (“I don’t really think that the terrorists want to kill us”); I welcome one or more sensible ones.

    • sooki

      Brother are you ever out to lunch.


      As far as I am concerned, the real issue here is whether probable cause should be required to be established before an invasion of privacy and wiretapping should be allowed by the government. The burden of proof is so low that the government can do anything they want without due process or probable cause. This goes to our most basic Constitutional rights, and it forms the foundation of why we split from England…….unreasonable search and seizure, the destruction of financial privacy, the Patriot Act and other governmental abuses were put in place without any watchdogs to protect the public. When secret laws are passed behind closed doors, without accountability to the people, and that allow the government to ignore our basic Constitutional rights (“a minimum set of basic guarranteed rights”)……THEY SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO PRESENT A REASONABLE BURDEN OF PROOF TO SUPPORT THEIR ACTIONS, AND MEET A MINIMUM STANDARD OF DUE PROCESS. An unrelated legislative body or judicial committee should be set up to approve any such invasions of privacy. There should be a standard of proof established that the government must meet in order to do a wiretap……”like some evidence showing that
      there is a liklihood of a clear and present danger to national security, as evidenced by prior or present actions”. If the government cannot support their actions for a wiretap, it should be considered an invasion of privacy for which they should be held liable. If there is an “emergency wiretap needed”, then there could be a time limit on it, to give the government time to establish the necessity of it. Perhaps a citizens “watchdog committee” should be set up to monitor government abuses in these areas, with authority to review the support for such actions, who reports to Congress?

      • SiliconDoc

        ” If there is an “emergency wiretap needed”, then there could be a time limit on it, to give the government time to establish the necessity of it.”
        There is. It’s the very warrantless wiretap talked about, that post tap, has so much time to present the case and get the tap cleared – after the fact. That is how it currently works.
        I forget the timetable, but I believe the initial notification (minus the usual 90 pages of legal documents) is required to be presented within 48 hours to the FISA court receiving entity.
        That brings up the other side of the coin – that no one seems to want to mention.
        I watched the detailed testimony on how long traditional FISA tap takes – one month is seriously pushing the envelope, and I believe 90 days was the usual standard.
        So if 3 months sounds like a good time envelope to everyone for the secret government tap agents to move, then so be it.
        That of course reminds me that “a speedy trial” or any such speedy legal system occurrence is nowadays, a standing JOKE. Perhaps that is what really needs to be cleared up.
        Finally, for an answer as to what to do otherwise, I would have been greatly encouraged if Gitmo military tribunals issued regular execution orders and has them carried out immediately, starting with the first inflow of “detainees” “enemy combatants” “pows” or “minutemen” – whatever one wants to call the captured enemy.
        When not a single execution issued, I realized we will not ever win “the war on terror”. Our war management has a very hard time with “killing the enemy”. Once captured, we see it is very difficult to issue anything but lemon chicken dinners and sweet donuts, and then release, apparently even the Bahamas with plenty of protective handlers and some very important official UK Scotland Yard assistance for years on end also comes with the package in certain cases.
        One gets the feeling in a few decades our new communist leader will personally arrive, bow down to all the “captured heroes”, then hand them flowers and a million dollars before patting them on their back and giving them a prez limo ride to their desired destinations.

        • Greg

          What nobody seems to talk about is why the Fisa court was set up in the first place. It was a place where top secret cleared judges could look at the information of national security and provide warrants etc. The government can place a tap at their will and then have I believe 72 or 96 hours to get the warrant. The government mentions all the time that they need the ability to move quickly which they had prior tithe executive order but what they have now is no oversight. This lack of oversight will leD to bad things in the future.

  • Barbara

    I think wiretapping is necessary to catch terrorists before they attack us again or any other individual that is deranged.

    • jimminynix

      What is so difficult about getting a warrant? The abuse that is advanced is that now you do not even need a single human being to review who you are targeting to invade their privacy. At least with a warrant process we had the illusion of someone checking to see that they are invading someone worthy of that violation for our “protection”, even though the reviewer was simply a judge appointed by the very powers carrying out this abuse. At least it involved the premise of being JUSTIFIABLE. Now without even a reason, the trolling of anyones private communication is advanced without any reason ever being given and without any single person even acknolwedging that the invasion is taking place. The ONLY reason for this change is to effect serious and grave harm against any “political opponent” – which is DEATH TO DEMOCRACY incarnate. You do not need this lack of warrant to go after terroriists – you need lack of warrants to go after any citizen you do not like. It really is that simple and that evil, and despite my belief that many good things may someday come from the right wing politically – it sadly appears to me that the right wing loses its ability to reason the harm of this through as soon as some genius places the word “terrorist” in the legislation or court decision. Shame – a sad shame at that, all rights to reason hijacked by a 9 letter word and a cultural legacy so easily manipulatable because of fear of anything “different”. Why is it so many right wingers (who I expect better from) cannot get the idea that resisting the present abuses of power is more patriotic than furthering the reach of the abusers..?? It is why I was drawn to this site originally, but it is clear from many of the responses that even those drawn to the idea of freedom and liberty want their freedom and liberty at the expense of others.

  • Dan Mac

    I agree with James. I don’t know of any citizen who has been targeted for wire tapping by the government and has brought suit or filed a complaint regarding same.
    If they had, it certainly would be pasted all over the media as an indicment on Bush.
    Let’s face it, we live in dangerous times where Radical Islamists cells both within and without are waiting for the oportunity to attack us. Many incidents have been prevented because of this law. In my state of NJ two Muslim men were just convicted in a plan to enter Fort Dix and kill numerous soldiers and set off explosives.
    They were stopped before they carried out their plan because they were under observation and were monitored.
    As long as the proper protocols are in place no law abiding citizen has to worry about their phone calls being monitored…unless of course they are in contact with islamists from overseas. It is unrealistic to think that we can have it both ways.
    Radical Islamists have bombed subways in Europe, conspired to blow up planes in route from Britain to the U.S. but were pre-empted by just such surviellance.

    • James

      To Dan Mac,

      Thanks for your comments, particularly noting that we can’t have it both ways. I remember the uproar over the option under the Patriot Act to monitor library withdrawal records. People assumed that because the legal capability was there, that it would somehow automatically happen with every library withdrawal everywhere in the country. Perhaps they imagined there was a large secret govenrment building where analysts did nothing but pore over library records, at least 99.99% of which would be meaningless. We certainly need to be careful about protecting our rights, something probably everyone attached to this thread can agree on. But what some cannot seem to get their heads around is that those rights are under attack from multiple directions. Who would you rather have dictate the extent of your rights: our own government, islamic terrorists, the UN, or some new world order? Personally, I will take our own government. I have some potential to control that, through voting and voter activism, and indirectly the terrorists and the UN, if we have the right people in office.
      A comment made by an observer of that recent and pathetic shoe-throwing-at-the-White-House was that as far as “evisceration of the Constitution” goes, we haven’t seen anything yet, now that “living document” Obama is President. I hope he is wrong about Obama, but I happen to agree with him.

  • http://??? maryam fritsch

    It is so discouraging to hear the drumbeat of Islamophobia which has been created in the controlled press by racist/zionists.

    The esteemed journalist Allison Wier has a video which tells all about the controlled press’ way of determining how many Palestinian children are killed in proportion to israeli children. The people of the U.S. are being used to defeat Islam and those who practice it. And everyone in the U.S. must ask why. Islam does not allow credit and without credit capitalism could not exist. We’ve seen Madoff and his ilk as current examples of capitalism. I suggest reading all about usury and what it entails in order to be educated about economics.


    What if the so-called bad economic times were actually times when the spigot of this gift of arms and money to israel were to be cut off so they could once and for all be no longer dependent on us??? I’m sure they would find another patsy to encourage their sick grab at worldwide power. But if those so-called patriots in this country truly wanted to see this country at its best, they would say ENOUGH to racist/zionism.


    Maryam Fritsch


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