Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.’
Yet recent revelations of President George W. Bush personally authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on fellow Americans without a warrant granted by the courts has sparked controversy about the balance between civil liberties and national security, as well as about the extent of powers constitutionally granted to the executive branch of government.
With the classified program leaked to the New York Times and made public, the Bush administration has been on the offensive, stating that the War Powers Act passed after Sept. 11, as well as the President’s responsibility to protect the American people, gave Bush the authority to authorize wiretapping without warrants.
The only problem for the White House is that the 1978 congressional law creating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which clearly forbids the NSA to conduct surveillance inside the United States without a warrant, was completely discarded.
The major issue and concern is why the Bush administration bypassed the FISA Court in the first place.
The high success rate of the FISA Court in granting surveillance warrants to federal agencies such as the FBI is so high that it is shocking to see the president ignore the law. At the end of 2004, there were just five warrants that were rejected by the court out of a possible 18,761 warrants.
Also, while less then 200 of these original warrants were modified during the president’s term, they were still granted to federal agencies.
President Bush also defends his actions, stating that finding a judge and making sure a warrant is granted would take up time and allows the enemy to escape surveillance.
Yet the FISA Court allows the federal agencies to track suspects without a warrant and eavesdrop on conversations if a situation requires immediate action.
In this drastic and extreme case, the agency has up to three days to apply for a warrant after obtaining their crucial information.
The FISA apparently court allows the evidence to be permissible in court, as well. This contradicts the president’s justification for the wiretaps.
Furthermore, in April 20, 2004 Bush argued that the Patriot Act and other proposals safeguarded Americans’ civil liberties when he stated, ‘Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires