Friday, August 18, 2006

Opinion: Does the warrantless surveillance program violate the Bill of Rights?

By SARAH KARUSH, Associated Press Writer Fri Aug 18, 6:56 AM ET
DETROIT - A federal judge decision's to strike down
President Bush's warrantless surveillance program was the first ruling over its legality, but surely not the last.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled that the program violated the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
The administration said it would appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

"We're going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington.

Taylor was the first judge to rule on the legality of the National Security Agency's program, which the White House says is a key tool for fighting terrorism that has already stopped attacks.
"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling." He said the program carefully targets communications of suspected terrorists and "has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives."
Taylor ordered an immediate halt to the program, but the government said it would ask for a stay of that order pending appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, said it would oppose a stay but agreed to delay enforcement of the injunction until Taylor hears arguments Sept. 7.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which monitors international phone calls and e-mails to or from the U.S. involving people the government suspects have terrorist links.
The ACLU says the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to grant warrants for such surveillance, gave the government enough tools to monitor suspected terrorists.

The government argued the NSA program is well within the president's authority but said proving that would require revealing state secrets. The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule. The administration has decried leaks that led to a New York Times report about the existence of the program last year.

Taylor, a Carter appointee, said the government appeared to argue that the program is beyond judicial scrutiny. "It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero called Taylor's opinion "another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration's legal strategy in the war on terror."
While siding with the ACLU on the surveillance issue, Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the group over NSA data-mining of phone records. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation would jeopardize state secrets.
Associated Press writers Katherine Shrader in Washington and Jeremiah Marquez in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


brandong said...

I think that surveying people warrantlessly is wrong. The government should respect people's privacy by allowing poeple to talk and act how they wish (try taking a look at the first and fourth amendments) in their own homes. So yes I do believe that that program does violate our Bill of Rights because we are supposed to be able to feel secure in our own homes, and not have to worry about someone listening to your conversation on the phone or someone intercepting our e-mails.

Megan B said...

I think that the Bill of Right does not prevent the government from warrantless surveillance.The Bill of Right only protects U.S. citizens, so if vistors or illegals to the country are being closely watched they should not expect any of the protections of the Bill of Rights. The only two amendments that might apply to this situation would be the first and the fouth. The first does not apply because this is not a law enacted by congress and because it is not "abridging the freedom of speech," just monitoring what is said. The fouth would not apply because according to it, a warrent is only needed when the government wants to search a person, their house, papers, or effects. Since your words are not your personal property, they should not be considered part of your effects. I also believe that most people have learned not to expect privacy. I don't mean to compair the government to criminals but many people have learned to be cautious of hackers, so privacy is not expected in phone calls, e-mails, or other electronic communication. Electronic communitcation weather voice or data, once it laeves your home is in the public domain and people should start to consider electronic communication just like communication in a public square.

Mrs. H said...

I am currently reading a library book called "No Place to Hide" by Robert O'Harrow. On the inside flap it says, "When you use your cell phone, the phone company knows where you are and when. If you use a discount card, your grocery and prescription purchases are recorded. Many new cars have built-in devices that enable companies to track from afar details about your movements." More and more we take for granted that these invasions of our privacy are part of the post-9/11 world we live in. If the government feels that their involvement in the increasing use of information gathering does not violate the Bill of Rights then they should be more forthright in explaining exactly the extent of their surveillance tactics. Let the American public and the judicial system determine if our Constitutional rights have been violated.

tonileep said...

I believe that the warrantless surveillance program does not violate the Bill of Rights. This program allows eavesdropping and intercepting of telephone calls and emails between the United States and foregin countries without the use of a warrant from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. This program is for terrorism purposes and is legal on the grounds of the FISA. The Bill of Rights protects the citizens of the United States, so if they are intercepting telephone calls and emails from other countries, how does the Bill of Rights affect them? They aren't American citizens and they aren't protected by the Bill of Rights. So I believe that this program does not violate the Bill of Rights.

KimK said...

I think that the warrantless surveillance program does not violate the Bill of Rights. The government needs to be able to protect its citizens from terrorism and can do this best with this program. People can still act how they wish, as long as they aren't plotting a terrorist attack. The government should have the right to watch people without a warrant if they suspect something.

Dain said...

I firmly believe that warrantlessly spying on US Citizens viotlates the Bill of Rights.

Regarding the language of the 4th amendment, I would point out that the writers of the constitution had neither phones nor e-mail, so it wasn't an issue then. Rather, I belive in the spirit of the amendment which protects the people from frvolous searches and sizures.

Legally, when you are in another country, you are bound by the laws in effect in that country, so simply being a foreiner should have little relevance here.

The entire concept of this progam is sunk by the very argument used to support it: "The government should have the right to watch people without a warrant [b]if they suspect something[/b]." If the government has a reason to suspect you, then they already have enough for a warrent.

We have taken for granted that each new invasion of our privacy or right restriction is needed to fight the war on terror. Do we feel any safer? Judging by the reaction when the UK foiled the plot to steal 10 planes over the atlantic, I would say no.

Civil Rights groups have a stock argument dubbed the 'future government', but it is no less strong for being often repeated. While we trust that this administration is using this program solely for fighting terrorism, what is there to stop another administration from using the program for other purposes? As a matter of fact, what legal protections would there be if Bush were to line up some loyal supporters in the FBI and wiretap the offices of the Democrats?

I communicate regularly with several people who live outside the US. Is that really enough grounds for the government to label me a terrorist suspect? I don' think so. I'd rather be innoccent until they prove I did something wrong than guilty until I prove my e-mails are not terrorist related.

BrandonK said...

Yes, definitely. I believe that warrentless surveillance absolutely violates the Bill of Rights. The first and fourth amendments were created to respect people's privacy, and now that privacy is in jeopardy. The administration is allowed to check correspondance under the FISA law. The FISA law requires a judge's approval within 72 hours of the search. Of the several thousand requests, only a handful have been turned down. This shows that the Judiciary does give the government quite a bit of leeway under FISA rules. This is the oversight that is needed to protect all of our civil rights. As it stands, there is no one (Congress, Judiciary, the American people) allowed to know any of the details of this program. It is so secretive that the government would not tell THIS Judge in her chambers who, what,when or how they are surveilling. This administration refuses to use the FISA rules that the previous administrations have all agreed to. As it stands there is no one who knows the extent of the surveillances.

MikeM said...

Yes I believe that the Bill of Rights prohibits warrantless surveillance. Even though I also belive that under the current circumstances the program has good intentions and will do no harm it's the principle of the issue that gets me. The first and fourth amendments reserve the right of privacy, and warrantlessly tapping phones is not privacy. Now if they want to go get a warrent and they have a reasonable case then they sould be able to but without that step the publics privacy is in jeopardy and we should not go around giving up our basic freedoms just to feel a little safer. Like Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

BrandonSh said...

It is a blatant violation of the U.S. Bill Of Rights. They are spying on U.S. citizens, bottom line. It is illegal and should not be tolerated. It is also suspected that the administration has been using it to spy on citizens who weren't even suspected of any terrorist plot. I belong to a group ( who has tried to tell congress to not let this pass many times before. It should not be allowed. If you don't have a warrant you should not be monitoring my activities.

trevorhguy said...

I feel that the warrantless spying done by the CIA at the behist of King Bush is blatantly illegal. The old Bill of Rights states quite clearly in the 1st Amendment (hmmmm the 1st Amendment, that probably means that it's the most important) that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."(The Bill of Rights). For most people this would be enough proof that it was and still is illegal. However, our furor King Bush has found a little loop hole in the painfully strait forward, easily interpretted, document know as the Bill of Rights. The loop hole is, according to King Bush, write your own Bill of Rights. So he did. It states, "I am always right and everyone else is wrong. Anyone who disagrees with me is a terrorist"(The Bill of Rights according to King Bush). So, to answer the question, is the warrantless spying illegal, the answer is yes, at least by the old Bill of Rights. However, we are no longer following the old Bill of Rights we are using the new Bill of Rights according to King Bush. So at this point in time the answer to the question is, no, of course not how could you even suggest something like that, you are obviosly a terrorist.

KerryW said...

No I don't believe that the warrantless surveillance program violates the Bill of Rights. The eavsdropping in on phone calls between the U.S. and other countries is for our benefit. What are people in the United States so afraid of letting the government know about unless they are a terrorist, which is the point of all of this. Now if terrorists talk about blowing up a building or flying a plane into the white house on the telephone or any other means of communication, there is a greater chance of catching them which is what all sane people should be rooting for.

RaStauss said...

i belive that the warrantless surveillance program does violate the bill of rights. The 4th amendment firmly states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Last time i checked entering someones house without a warrant was called breaking and entering. The american people have the right to privacy in their own homes. The point may come up, "if you are not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't have anything to hide" This is beside the point, the point is this is a right that has been guranteed to us. If there is something someone did that was bad enough, the government should have no troulbe getting a search warrant. This right should not be violated because the governments lacks patience or even reason to obtain a search warrant in the proper manner.

KimK said...

It seems like most people who responded to this one think that the warrantless surveillance program does violate the Bill of Rights. However, I don't think that the government trying to protect its citizens from terrorists should be considered an "unreasonable search." I think it is definitely reasonable to watch people that are suspected terrorists. It might take too much time and money to get warrants for every suspect in the case of terrorism. I would rather have the government able to do whatever it can to prevent another 9/11 than have the government spend so much time getting warrants.