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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Gillmor wouldn’t end spying

For the past two years President Bush has allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants – and Ohio Congressman Paul Gillmor said the president has the right to authorize such eavesdropping.

‘In extraordinary circumstances the president can go around this process [warrants],’ said Gillmor, who represents Bowling Green as part of the House of Representatives’ 5th District. ‘But, I think whenever there is an opportunity to do so you ought to seek court approval to eavesdrop.’

Traditionally, court-approved warrants are required for domestic spying, but following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on international communications within its borders. The NSA still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic conversations.

Defenders of the NSA’s actions said that the Ohio trucker who planned to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge and derail a train in the Washington, D.C. area might never have been caught if the government didn’t eavesdrop on his international communications.

But Steven Ludd, professor of constitutional law at the University, said the way the government eavesdropped on the Ohio trucker was unconstitutional.

‘There is a little thing called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,’ Ludd said. ‘And the ends don’t always or hardly ever justify the means.’

In the end a terrorist might be caught, but violating their rights in the process isn’t worth overriding their First and Fourth Amendment rights, said Victoria Ekstrand, a journalism professor who studies the First Amendment.

These amendments give the right to free speech and privacy. Ekstrand said forcing officials to obtain warrants to search personal property and communications is an important process because the court debates whether they can override an American’s constitutional right to privacy.

‘It is a check on the system,’ she said. ‘The courts look at whether the search is necessary.’

Ekstrand is concerned, along with many other Americans, because the instant a president is allowed to conduct endless searches without court approval there will be no one checking on the president’s intentions in these searches.

‘The reason we have the Fourth Amendment is to protect citizens from unwarranted seizures on their private lives,’ Ludd said. ‘This is part of our history, and President Bush has chosen to circumvent this under the defense of national security.’

But 61 percent of Americans feel that it is OK to eavesdrop without a warrant when it’s goal is to fight terrorism, reported CBS Evening News yesterday.

In an AP-Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month, 56 percent felt a warrant should be required before monitoring communications between Americans and suspected terrorists.

There is legislation that allows the president to eavesdrop on whomever he pleases – but only for 72 hours, after which time he is expected to seek a warrant. Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, but Bush has not used this legislation to eavesdrop in many cases – instead he allegedly uses his war powers granted to him under article II of the Constitution to eavesdrop.

‘I think before he eavesdrops he should go to FISA for approval when time allows it,’ Gillmor said.

There is no excuse why the President can’t seek approval from a court within 72 hours, added Edgar Landgraf, a University professor originally from Germany, who may or may not have had his international communications spied on.

‘Why can’t he go through the proper procedures?’ Landgraf said. ‘This is a characteristic of a totalitarian state. We shouldn’t give him a free pass to supervise whomever.’

Ekstrand agrees that Bush should not be allowed to spy on whomever without any checks.

‘It just goes one step too far,’ she said. ‘I like to think we can protect speech and battle terrorism at the same time.’

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