June 1, 2012
The Obama administration will argue in federal court today that the president has the authority to wiretap American citizens without a court issued warrant and laws adopted in the wake of Watergate do not apply to him.
“The case tests whether Americans may seek recourse or monetary damages when a sitting U.S. president bypasses Congress’s ban on warrantless spying on Americans — in this instance when President George W. Bush authorized his secret, warrantless domestic spying program in the aftermath of the September 2001 terror attacks,” writes David Kravets for Wired.
“Executive spying on Americans without a warrant is precisely the kind of illegal practice that the founders of our country designed the Constitution to prevent,” Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU, said in 2008 after it was revealed that the government was illegally spying on Americans.
“There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all ‘inherent powers’ must derive from that Constitution,” Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said in a federal court ruling striking down the illegal program.
Taylor said the program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted in the 1970s to prevent executive abuses, including the government spying on civil rights leaders and members of Congress.
During the Bush regime, Congress enacted the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The bill legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. It expires at the end of the year.
On Thursday, Kravets reported that “House lawmakers of both stripes in a Thursday hearing seemed amenable to the Obama administration’s request to continue giving the government broad, warrantless electronic surveillance powers over American citizens;” in other words they have agreed that the executive shall remain above the Constitution.