You are here: Constitutional Law & National Security > Section 3 > Investigations and Searches Under FISA
- "The problem is the gulf between the real oversight established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in the wake of the rampant domestic snooping of the Watergate era, and the fake oversight envisioned in this bill. FISA mandated judicial review each time the NSA applies for a warrant to eavesdrop. Specter proposes a blanket review of whole surveillance programs. Leave aside for the moment the Fourth Amendment's requirement that search warrants must be issued on an individual basis and the fact that some of the NSA's programs reportedly monitor thousands of people. There's an even bigger problem: Review by the FISA court is optional. Whereas under the 1978 law, the president could authorize surveillance without seeking a warrant for up to 15 days after a declaration of war, Specter's bill eliminates the declaration-of-war provision and expands that 15-day grace period—to a year. "
- "This provision, along with the accompanying suggestion that the president can find authorization to wiretap either through FISA or "under the Constitution," effectively codify the Bush administration's controversial argument that the president's authority as commander in chief under Article II of the Constitution gives him virtually unconstrained license to do whatever he sees fit, national-security-wise. According to this view, it's not the NSA surveillance program that's unconstitutional, but FISA itself."
- "So, to sum up this civic morass: In 1978 Congress passed a sweeping law limiting the power of the president to spy on the American people. A quarter-century later, Bush administration lawyers concluded that this law was unconstitutional. Rather than challenge its constitutionality in the courts, they elected to violate it in secret. And now, in the name of oversight, the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee is proposing to bypass any rigorous judicial assessment of the president's constitutional prerogatives and instead to endorse the administration's position—a position, incidentally, that the Supreme Court rejected just weeks ago in another context. The bill amounts to the repeal-by-amendment of FISA. "
- "Specter's biggest gift to the administration is that, if passed, his bill would manage to do what Justice Department lawyers have been scrambling to do for months: keep this controversy out of the courts, or at any rate, out of courts with any semblance of due process or transparency. Since December, civil libertarians have launched a wave of challenges to the surveillance program, figuring that while Congress might be too timid to bring the administration into line, the judiciary might not be. Throughout the spring and summer, Justice Department lawyers sought to torpedo these cases by employing an obscure and pernicious legal tactic, the state secrets doctrine. Traditionally used to prevent the introduction into court of evidence that might compromise national security, the state secrets doctrine is now being employed by the administration to dismiss cases at their inception."