President George W. Bush claims to be a strict constructionist, except, of course, when the Constitution does not suit his needs. Bush’s latest controversy is when he conveniently ignored the Fourth Amendment, which outlaws unreasonable, warrantless search and seizures, by authorizing wiretaps on American citizens.

The irony is that it really isn’t that hard to get a legal wiretap. When national security is at stake, as Bush claims, judges will issue warrants with the slightest bit of evidence on a suspected terrorist.

What a judge won’t do, however, is issue warrants for eavesdropping on the American Civil Liberties Union or Greenpeace. These groups clearly pose no threat to the national security of Americans, yet Bush has ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on them.

When the New York Times first reported the story, the administration’s reaction was not to prove the legality of the program, but to ask for an investigation into who leaked the story to reporters. Instead, the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the legality of Bush’s spying program.

As of now, two separate Congressional Research Service reports have found the program conflicts with current law. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the spying program. Bush claims that the power comes from bills that were signed into law after September 11, but Congress specifically made sure those powers could only be used in countries that helped plan the attacks, and not in the United States.

The issue is not a partisan one. Bush did not inform Congress of his actions. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, stated that he has “grave doubts” on the legality of the program. Specter has suggested that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have a court review the legality of the program.

The civil liberties of Americans are at stake. One of the principles that this country is founded on is the presumption of innocence. A person cannot be wiretapped unless a judge signs a warrant approving the search. This warrant, of course, must be based on some sort of evidence. When Bush authorizes these wiretaps, he is ignoring the fundamental rights of all Americans. He is sacrificing the civil liberties of all Americans for something that could easily be done legally and properly.

Recent estimates say that about 10 U.S. citizens or residents have aroused enough suspicion during the unwarranted wiretapping to merit a Court-ordered warrant to listen to their domestic calls as well. Approximately 5,000 U.S. citizens or residents calls have been monitored during Bush’s program. This means just .2 percent of people who are having their calls being listened to actually result in something that deserves a warrant.

A rate this low does not seem to balance out the loss of civil liberties. American citizens are sacrificing a lot, including the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, in order to learn that most citizens are law-abiding and not terrorists.

The Fourth Amendment states that for a warrantless search to be legal, it must be deemed “reasonable.” When only a fifth of a percent of people are presenting enough evidence to merit a warrant, the searches are not reasonable. They lack the reliability the Fourth Amendment requires.

Additionally, Bush’s actions also breach the separation of powers. The law is clear that the judicial branch must sign all warrants to keep the executive branch from becoming too powerful. Bush is taking away power from the judicial branch and putting into his own hands.

These actions are impeachable offenses. With Republicans in charge of Congress, such drastic measures are unlikely to happen. But if Democrats can take control of Congress in the midterm elections, Bush might find that not even he is above the rule of law.

Daga can be reached at ndaga@campustimes.org.



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