Today, President Bush attempted to justify his secret domestic spying program:
The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers, called from the outside of the United States and of known al Qaeda or affiliate people. In other words, the enemy is calling somebody and we want to know who they’re calling and why.
In fact, according to this explanation, the program was not only illegal but unnecessarily puts the American people at risk.
If we know that U.S. persons are communicating with al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates, the surveillance would be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (Remember, doing so would not slow the process down because you can obtain the approval up to 72-hours after the surveillance has begun.) Evidence obtained with a warrant from the FISA court, in most cases, can be used to charge and prosecute a suspect. In fact, Section 218 of the Patriot Act amended FISA to make it easier to introduce evidence obtained with a FISA warrant to prosecute people.
Every conversation monitored under Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program is a missed opportunity to get someone who is talking with terrorists off the streets and behind bars.
Why? Becuase evidence obtained by Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program is probably not admissible in court. Convictions obtained with evidence from this program may be overturned. Suspected terrorists are already pursuing appeals.
Conversation between U.S. persons and a known terrorists should be monitored. But those conversations should be monitored in a way maximizes the security of the American people. Bush’s secret program doesn’t do it. We’d be much safer if he would cancel it and start following the law.