Bill of Rights Defense Campaign

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Surveillance and intelligence collection

'Phone tap

As early as February 2001, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to tap phone lines and collect email messages involving communications between someone in the US and someone outside the US. This was a major shift from the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Bush administration claimed this program was not a threat to the civil liberties of Americans, but evidence that American reporters’ and activists’ phones have been tapped has disproved this claim.

The New York Times first reported on the program in 2005. Congress’s outrage and reported requests for information from the administration, always rebuffed, appeared to have subsided by 2007, when Congress retroactively legalized the warrantless wiretapping program. Though he claimed to oppose the warrantless wiretapping program and immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in it, President Obama (then a senator) voted in favor of them.

Under President Obama, warrantless surveillance and dragnet intelligence collection—unsupported by suspicion of criminal activity—continue unchecked.

Learn more about surveillance and intelligence collection.