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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed shock about revelations reported in the New York Times that President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on conversations of Americans and others in the United States. According to the report, this spying occurred without any court order and was focused on telephone and e-mail communications of "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States" with persons abroad. Electronic surveillance law generally prohibits non-consensual eavesdropping in the U.S. without a court order based on probable cause.
The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
"Eavesdropping on conversations of U.S citizens and others in the United States without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is both illegal and unconstitutional. The administration is claiming extraordinary presidential powers at the expense of civil liberties and is putting the president above the law. Congress must investigate this report thoroughly. We also call upon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor to independently investigate whether crimes have been committed.
"The Patriot Act already provides law enforcement a wide array of surveillance powers and it vastly expands the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. These disclosures show that the kinds of safeguards many members of Congress are trying to build into the Patriot Act are urgently needed."