Article - Office of College Advancement
Professor tells Ohlone: Bush wiretaps illegal
By Matthew Artz, Staff writer.
Friday, February 23, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.
Fremont—When the Bush administration approved warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, it was effectively taking a joyride with time-honored civil liberties, a law professor told about 150 students and professors Thursday at Ohlone College.
Although the administration announced last month that it was discontinuing the program, John Cary Sims of the McGeorge School of Law said there still is reason for concern.
"The bad news is they haven't admitted they did anything wrong and they haven't said they won't do it again," he said.
Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration authorized a secret electronic surveillance program by the National Security Agency that enabled it to intercept communications from or to U.S. citizens or permanent residents without first obtaining a warrant.
While administration officials argued the program was needed to help prevent future terrorist attacks, civil libertarians countered it violated laws requiring a judge to grant permission for the government to spy on U.S. citizens or legal residents.
"I think it's unquestionably illegal," Sims said.
It was unknown, he added, whether the program was effective in combating terrorism.
With a budget larger than that of the Central Intelligence Agency, the NSA has tremendous technological capacity, but "it can't hear everything that's out there," Sims said.
Ohlone student Sandeep Abraham said the professor's talk about the type of information the NSA sought would comfort students who fear the government is spying on their music downloads and text messages.
Although the government says the target of its surveillance program is suspected terrorists, Ohlone professor Heather McCarty noted that previous administrations had spied on academics.
"I'm concerned that we are going down a slippery slope that is threatening our civil liberties," she said.
Contact Matthew Artz at (510) 353-7003.