wired mag: "lawbreaker in chief" More on raping fisa procedures and the bill of rights: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/commentary/circuitcourt/2005/12/69886 Lawbreaker in Chief Jennifer Granick 12.21.05 | 2:00 AM <!-- only display photo on first page --> <!-- start article photo --> <droplink> </droplink>Ignorance of the law is no defense. Someone should tell the president. This week, <cite>The New York Times</cite> revealed that the Bush administration ignored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and intercepted telephone calls and e-mails from American citizens without a warrant. FISA requires that investigators provide a judge with evidence that there's reason to believe the person they plan to place under surveillance is an agent of a foreign power. Applications for these warrants are at an all-time high, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (often called "the secret court") almost never denies the requests. Nonetheless, Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to ignore this relatively insignificant hurdle. The government has been monitoring calls to or from United States citizens to international locations, perhaps eavesdropping on as many as 500 people at any one time, according to the <cite>Times</cite>. The surveillance policy is part of a larger Bush administration strategy that includes imprisoning people indefinitely without charges or attorneys in Guantanamo Bay and transporting suspects to countries known to torture, a process the administration calls "rendition." As with these policies, the interceptions are almost certainly illegal. Statutes prohibit government interceptions of the phone and e-mail conversations of United States citizens unless officials have first sought and obtained court approval, either under the Wiretap Act, for criminal investigations, or under FISA, for national security investigations. The only exceptions are following a declaration of war, when the president has very narrow, time-limited powers to order surveillance to obtain information to prevent attacks, terrorism or espionage, and under special circumstances when no U.S. citizens are involved. The administration's actions clearly fall outside these boundaries. There is no legal justification for these warrantless interceptions, which included calls to and from American citizens. Nor is there any practical reason. FISA allows the attorney general to approve interceptions in an emergency, and gives up to 72 hours to seek court approval after the fact. We won't see a special prosecutor appointed to investigate these violations, though Bush has called for the Department of Justice to find out who informed the press of the illegal eavesdropping program. Apparently, informing the public that the NSA broke the law is more troubling to the president than breaking the law in the first place. Instead, the administration claims that it has the power to ignore the law. Bush cites his authority under the Constitution, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales cites Congress' post-9/11 authorization for the administration to use force in combating terrorism. But even Gonzales admits that the resolution authorizing force said nothing about surveillance. He denies that his argument is just a convenient excuse for illegal behavior.