Wiretapping needs court approval

It’s amazing how little can be resolved after a full day of Congressional hearings on a topic as complex, and uncomfortable, as President Bush’s approval of the National Security Agency’s international “surveillance program.” The policy, which has recently fallen under legislative criticism, allows the NSA to wire-tap phone calls between suspected foreign al-Qaida supporters and American affiliates. Although the program is intended to further safeguard American citizens from terrorist attacks like the ones they endured Sept. 11, 2001, logic may reveal that it is fundamentally flawed.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who appeared before Congress on Monday in an attempt to defend the president’s actions, danced around the issues that needed direct addressing. What may be most concerning is that the evidence the NSA is using to finger the foreign individuals being put on wiretaps has yet to be presented.

If the administration’s evidence is so sound, why is it necessary for the NSA to circumvent existing policy and refuse to get a legal warrant?

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the clearest legal body of reference for the NSA’s actions. However, Gonzales is standing by the ideal that special resolutions passed Sept. 14, 2001, ones that grant the president authority to “use all necessary and appropriate force” to battle al-Qaida, legalize this breach of law.

It seems unlikely that the senators who granted their consent to such a phrase had the current scenario in mind.

If the intelligence the NSA is working off of is accurate enough to invade the privacy of Americans, shouldn’t it be convincing enough to sway a judge? Either special intelligence information is flimsy, or the Bush administration has found it necessary to flaunt the system of checks and balances. Although the desire to protect citizens is both understandable and commendable, the self-appropriated authority to bypass Constitutional law to achieve that end is unacceptable.

Sports editor Travis Stewart for the editorial board.