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Surveillance Under The Bush Administration Essay

1599 words - 6 pages

Under the last couple of years America has withstand a very watchful eye from the government. Phone calls, e-mails, and even physical searches, have all been collected and done in numbers never seen before. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was established solely to prevent the government from getting out of hand with surveillance, especially the surveillance of innocent American people. However, after the attacks of 9/11 things changed drastically; and although FISA was enacted, President Bush changed the entire outlook on “foreign” intelligence surveillance that would soon lead to question if Americans really do have any privacy in their own country.
Before we get into how the 43rd President of the United States changed the rules of foreign intelligence surveillance, it is necessary to understand what exactly FISA is to comprehend how it was dramatically changed from the time it was enacted to the period when Bush was in office. In the 1970’s the American people learned that the government was abusing national security authorities, such as “eavesdropping on Vietnam War Protestors and civil rights activists.” See before 1978 warrantless electronic surveillance for national security reasons were sanctioned by the President, there was no higher authority that the President had to heed to. Therefore after the Watergate Scandal it became obvious that something needed to be established to prevent the President or officials to abuse such powers against innocent individuals. Hence, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was enacted by Congress in 1978.
FISA creates rules and guidelines to prevent a U.S. citizen or legal alien resident to be under surveillance without probable cause. For example, according to a podcast with Jim McAdams, Senior Instructor in the Legal Division, under FISA, information can only be collected with a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and for officials to gather information from an individual “they must knowingly act on behalf of a foreign power, the collection of their communication must be carefully limited, and U.S. persons may not be considered a foreign power or agent of a foreign power solely based on acts protected by the first Amendment.” In addition FISA’s only purpose was to collect foreign intelligence information and was limited to only electronic surveillance. When it came to observing U.S. persons, permanent alien residents, and U.S. corporations, that were believed to be in an intentional relationship with a foreign power, or agent of a foreign power the requirements to obtain a warrant from the FISC were even stricter.
As mentioned before all warrants had to be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which was “established under FISA to hear nonpublic sessions to issue search warrants under FISA.” Without approval from this specific court no surveillance is to be permitted. The FISC is made up of 11 federal district judges all...

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