EDITORIAL: No to warrantless spying

Last week, Congress gave in to a campaign of Bush administration fear-mongering and approved the Protect America Act by a vote of 60-28 in the Senate and 227-183 in the House. Bush immediately signed the bill into law.

House Republicans supported the bill with only two “no” votes while Democrats mostly opposed it, but 41 of them voted for it. In the Senate, Republican support was almost 100 percent, while 15 Democrats broke with the party leadership and supported the bill. All four Democratic senators who are running for president voted against the bill.

Fear of being accused of being soft on terrorism and weak on national security did the job once more.

This legislation gives the executive branch, specifically the National Security Agency, the right to carry out warrantless electronic surveillance of phone and e-mail communications of U.S. citizens. Up to now, such surveillance required a warrant from the secret FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court. Members of the FISA Court, federal judges serving on a revolving basis, have repeatedly asserted that they can hear government requests for warrants at a moment’s notice, making this legislation unnecessary. But this was ignored.

The Bush administration has shown its contempt for due process and the Constitution. Congress should be trying to take away the powers Bush has so grievously abused, not giving him new ones. There’s a chance to change the situation. The law is for only six months and is expected to be revisited after the August break.

Let your Congress members know that warrantless spying does not protect the country; it endangers it.