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President Bush And Fisa Essay

2467 words - 10 pages

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was a necessary measure signed by President Jimmy Carter in an effort to stop the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other executive powers from conducting warrantless wiretaps of domestic groups for so-called national security purposes. This was necessary because findings by the Church Committee in the early 1970s suggested that warrantless wiretapping had been going on for quite some time by these government entities and was exacerbated by President Nixon and the Watergate scandal. This bill not only set a future precedent for how surveillance should be conducted, but also attempted to set a standard for what “good” and “bad” surveillance were defined as. FISA did not face any substantial challenges until the beginning of the twenty-first century when the attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred. Until that point, the enemies of the United States had been groups that were typically easy to identify such as governments of nations. The terrorist attacks on September 11 brought a new kind of enemy to the table, one that did not reside in a specific location, used more covert tactics than in the past, and was not necessarily covered by the FISA bill of 1978.
In 2005, the New York Times broke a story that said that then-President George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to illegally wiretap Americans without warrants following the attacks on September 11 (Risen). Outrage broke out as citizens and politicians voiced their concerns over this troubling news. Many questions started to be asked and defensive answers countered. The Bush administration gave many different reasons for their actions and tried to justify them with every possible rule and reason they could think of. The president claimed that dire circumstances called for drastic measures, that FISA was inefficient and cumbersome, and that he had the constitutional authority to by-pass the FISA rule that said (Jacobs 4/10/12). These problems that President Bush encountered where in fact very similar to the problems that the Carter administration predicted would surface when they were drawing up the bill in the late 1970s. Carter and other executive members brought up many valid concerns that included physical searches, overseas surveillance, communications intelligence, and how much power to give to the president (Carter Memo 2). The version of FISA proposed in 1978 was in itself a solid piece of legislature. Over the years, many amendments have been made to it that have slowly surrendered its power and allowed to the executive branch to create loopholes in which to continue warrantless surveillance where and when they see it fit. For this reason, the FISA process of requiring review by a special court is still viable, but does need some adjustments that allow it to stand similarly to its original form.
Since the passing of FISA came after a widespread finding of warrantless wiretapping by a number of different government entities, Congress along with the...

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