While President Bush is calling for broader authority for warrantless eavesdropping on suspected terrorists, others are saying, 'not so fast.'
Back on December 17th, 2005, President Bush confirmed the existence of a National Security Agency eavesdropping program. That confirmation came one day after a report in the New York Times. The President said at the news conference, "in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."
Critics argued that Bush became the first sitting president to admit committing a felony, when he circumvented the courts by not getting a subpoena from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court, as required by law.
The admission led to whispers of impeachment. Even leading Repubican Sen. Arlen Specter said on the Senate floor, "the American people are afraid Mr. President. They are afraid of Big Brother." But, the then-Republican controlled Congress did not act.
Now two years later, President Bush wants even more power to eavesdrop without warrants. His remarks this week at NSA Headquarters come just one month after he signed a temporary law doing just that.
Dr. Rodney Grunes, a Political Science Professor at Centenary College, sees such eavesdropping as a slow and inevitable encroachment on our civil rights that could one day even begin at birth. "First, there'll be a DNA sample put into a national database. And then maybe a chip put in each person."
Dr. Grunes blames the nuclear age, then 9/11, for the lack of patience in waiting for a FISA warrant. President Bush calls the power to eavesdrop on certain phone calls in the 'War on Terror' critical to winning that war.
We wanted to find out what Shreveporters thought of the idea. Robert Murrell commented, "if you could do it without a warrant it'd be just like an invasion of privacy." Others, like Chris Lewis of Shreveport, blame their skepticism on a lack of trust in the President. "For me, you really can't trust what he's saying right now."
Professor Grunes argues people who stand-up for our rights face an uphill battle. He continued, "we kind of like what's written down. But, we don't like people who exercise freedom. They're a problem. They cause disruption." That's why this professor wonders who might stand-up when the temporary eavesdropping law expires in 5-months.
The temporary law is called the Protect America Act. A major point of contention for any permanent version of the law is the Bush administration's provision that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped with eavesdropping before January 2007. Democrats oppose that idea.