us: The Warrantless Debate Over Wiretapping

[Op-Ed Contributor] Congress just passed, and President Bush hurriedly signed, a law that amends the legal framework for the electronic interception of various kinds of communication with foreign sources. Almost immediately, commentators concluded that the law was unnecessary, that it authorized a lawless and unprecedented expansion of presidential authority, and that Democrats in Congress cravenly accepted this White House initiative only for the basest political reasons. None of these widely broadcast conclusions are likely to be true.All sides agree that some legislative fix is required because of changes in telecommunications technology. Where once it made sense to require warrants when one party to a foreign conversation was in America, this ceased to be the case when American routers became the transit points for foreign conversations that might or might not involve a person in the United States.Once linear, analog, point-to-point communication has been replaced by the disaggregated packets of the Internet, two people talking to each other in Europe could find their conversations going through American switches. It also became difficult to determine the true origin of any communication that was routed through the United States. If a terrorism suspect in Pakistan is having conversations with someone on a computer with a New York Internet protocol address via a chat room run by an Internet service provider in London, where exactly is the intelligence being collected? If the answer is the United States simply because the servers are here, of what possible relevance could that be to the protection of the rights of Americans? author, Philip Bobbitt, is a professor of law and the director of the Center for National Security at Columbia University, was a National Security Council senior director from 1998 to 1999.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.