The National Security Agency's (NSA) Terrorist Surveillance Program, also known as the "warrantless wiretapping" program, was a secret domestic surveillance program that was implemented by the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The program involved the warrantless interception of telephone and internet communications of individuals suspected of terrorist ties, without obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
The Terrorist Surveillance Program was revealed to the public in 2005 by The New York Times, and it immediately sparked controversy and debate over the legality of the program and the extent of the government's surveillance powers. Opponents of the program argued that it violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant from the FISC before engaging in electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information.
In response to the revelation of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, several legal challenges were brought against the program, including a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of AT&T customers. In both cases, the plaintiffs argued that the program violated their Fourth Amendment rights and FISA.
The government argued that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was necessary for national security and that it was authorized by the Congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) following the September 11th attacks. However, many legal scholars and civil liberties advocates disputed this argument, pointing out that the AUMF did not explicitly authorize warrantless wiretapping and that the program went beyond the scope of the AUMF.
In 2007, the FISC issued a ruling in the case brought by the EFF, finding that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was illegal and that it violated the Fourth Amendment and FISA. The court ordered the government to stop the program and to destroy any information that had been collected through it.
However, in 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively granted the government immunity for its warrantless wiretapping activities and allowed for the continuation of certain surveillance programs, including the Terrorist Surveillance Program. This law was controversial because it granted the government broad surveillance powers in the name of national security, and it was seen by some as an attempt to bypass the FISC's ruling and shield the government from legal accountability for its actions.
Overall, the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program was a highly controversial and legally questionable domestic surveillance program that was implemented in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The program involved the warrantless interception of telephone and internet communications of individuals suspected of terrorist ties, and it was found to be illegal by the FISC. However, the program was eventually legalized and granted immunity by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, despite widespread opposition from civil liberties advocates and legal scholars.
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