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Bush’s surveillance is flawed

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Regarding the NSA wiretap issues: Here are the facts that are not really in dispute. In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which was further amended in 1995. FISA describes the conditions under which the executive branch may conduct electronic surveillance, including listening to phone calls, and provides a special court for search warrants. Wiretaps can be a valuable law enforcement and anti-terrorist tool, and President Bill Clinton's administration used wiretaps effectively, always in compliance with FISA's provisions. President Bush has argued that FISA doesn't apply to his administration. No court has, so far, agreed.

It's very difficult to see how a law governing surveillance by the executive branch could be declared inapplicable to the executive branch. But the Bush wiretaps aren't just illegal, they're also ineffective. FBI agents have said that the NSA wiretaps have nearly overwhelmed them with worthless leads. Even if a terrorist plot were uncovered, information developed illegally is inadmissible in court. If terrorists are planning attacks, of course we want to know about it and stop them. We also want to arrest and prosecute those responsible. Bush's actions make such arrests nearly impossible.

Eric Samuelsen