William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


In the past year, there have been many revelations about the tactics used by the Bush administration to prosecute its war on terrorism. These stories involve the exploitation of technologies that allow the government, with the cooperation of phone companies and financial institutions, to access phone and financial records. This Article focuses on the revelation and widespread criticism of the Bush administration's operation of a warrantless electronic surveillance program to monitor international phone calls and e-mails that originate or terminate with a United States party. The powerful and secret National Security Agency heads the program and leverages its significant intelligence collection infrastructure to further this effort. Fueling the controversy are undeniable similarities between the current surveillance program and the improper use of electronic surveillance that was listed as an article of impeachment for former President Richard M. Nixon. President Bush argues that the surveillance program passes constitutional inquiry based upon his constitutionally delegated war and foreign policy powers, as well as the congressional joint resolution passed following the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks. These arguments fail to supersede the explicit and exhaustive statutory framework provided by Congress and amended repeatedly since 2001 for judicial approval and authorization for electronic surveillance. The specific regulation by Congress based upon war powers shared concurrently with the President provides a constitutional requirement that cannot be bypassed or ignored by the President. The President's choice to do so violates the Constitution and risks the definite sacrifice of individual rights for speculative gain from warrantless action.