NEW YORK – A newly released Justice Department report shows an unprecedented expansion of the government's use of secret warrants for domestic spying. According to the report, the number of secret warrants approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) more than doubled in the past seven years. The court approved 2,370 requests last year, compared to 1,012 in 2000.
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"Since Congress enacted the Patriot Act, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of warrants issued by the secret intelligence court. The number has gone up every year since 2001 – even while the administration authorized the National Security Agency to set up a parallel surveillance program to monitor Americans' phone calls without the oversight of the secret court. The ever-increasing reach of government surveillance should be disturbing to anyone committed to constitutional values. Pervasive surveillance, besides eroding the right to privacy, deters innocent people from participating in the political process and from exercising their freedoms of speech, association, and religion. It has a chilling effect on activity that is absolutely necessary to any democracy."
Congress is currently discussing far-reaching and unconstitutional updates to FISA, a move the ACLU adamantly opposes. The Bush administration is playing a large role in negotiations and is pushing once again for immunity for telecommunications companies involved in warrantless wiretapping. The ACLU is urging Congress to stand firm and not pass any bill that violates Fourth Amendment rights or deprives Americans of meaningful judicial review.