Monday, January 16, 2006

Why Bush's NSA spying program is illegal

Fourteen legal scholars have written a letter to congress detailing why Bush's NSA wiretapping of US citizens without a warrant (which I've written about before) violates existing statute and is almost certainly illegal. The letter is titled "On NSA Spying: A Letter to Congress" and can be found here.

In the letter the scholars provide a lot of background on FISA and relevant Supreme Court decisions, as well as a point-by-point rebuttal of the recent Department of Justice memo (PDF) that attempted to justify the NSA spying program. The letter is well worth reading; here's the conclusion:
In conclusion, the DOJ letter fails to offer a plausible legal defense of the NSA domestic spying program. If the administration felt that FISA was insufficient, the proper course was to seek legislative amendment, as it did with other aspects of FISA in the Patriot Act, and as Congress expressly contemplated when it enacted the wartime wiretap provision in FISA. One of the crucial features of a constitutional democracy is that it is always open to the President—or anyone else—to seek to change the law. But it is also beyond dispute that, in such a democracy, the President cannot simply violate criminal laws behind closed doors because he deems them obsolete or impracticable.

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