Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy

By Susan N. Herman | Go to book overview

10.
The Presidents Surveillance Program

These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of
anything … Where does it stop?
—Senator Patrick Leahy (2006)1

This debate is going to cost American lives.—Mike McConnell to
Congress (2008)

I hope we’ll not hear any more irresponsible rhetoric about
congressional inquiries risking American lives
.—Senator Patrick
Leahy to Mike McConnell (2008)

Abuse of power comes as no surprise.—Jenny Holzer (circa 1989)

TRAWLING THROUGH MILLIONS of telephone and e-mail conversations for evidence of terrorism may be the biggest dragnet of them all. Beginning in early 2002, President Bush authorized the NSA to capture international telephone conversations and e-mails without consulting any court and without following the procedures Congress had prescribed in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The program Bush began on his own account is still with us, in expanded form, through at least 2012, now courtesy of Congress. And most courts refused to review serious claims that the program tramples on a range of constitutional rights even if individual people can’t tell exactly when the government is listening. Defense attorneys find that their clients and potential witnesses are afraid to speak with them for fear of being overheard and ending up on a watchlist, implicating the Sixth Amendment right to counsel; authors and scholars find their sources in other countries drying up, affecting their First Amendment rights; human rights investigators at organizations like Amnesty International have good reason to fear that their international calls will be intercepted en masse, compromising their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. All Americans

-165-

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Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 3
  • I - Dragnets and Watchlists 21
  • 1 - The Webmaster and the Football Player 23
  • 2 - "Foreign Terrorist Organizations/’ Humanitarians, and the First Amendment 39
  • 3 - Charity at Home 51
  • 4 - Traveling with Terror 66
  • 5 - Banks and Databanks 86
  • II - Surveillance and Secrecy 103
  • 6 - Gutting the Fourth Amendment 105
  • 7 - The Patriot Act and Library/Business Records 121
  • 8 - Gagging the Librarians 136
  • 9 - John Doe and the National Security Letter 150
  • 10 - The President’s Surveillance Program 165
  • III - American Democracy 187
  • 11 - Losing Our Checks and Balances- The President the Congress, and the Courts 189
  • Conclusion 209
  • Notes 219
  • Further Reading 259
  • Photo Credits 263
  • Index 265
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