I have a strong distrust of government over reach. I think that we often times allow out government to go far too far in what we think are noble intentions. But I have to admit that I am at a loss in this area.
Consider, an American citizen talking to another American citizen. Clearly the government would be required to obtain a warrant. However, what legal requirements would be needed in order for the government to listen to the communications of a foreign operative and ANOTHER foreign operative outside the US borders?
But now consider this. A foreign terror suspect, on foreign soil. Can we listen to his communications? And what if those communications are between him and an American citizen?
The FISA Amendments Act, (.pdf) which was expiring Friday at midnight, allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
I happen to agree with Obama’s administration on this one. If we’re targeting a foreign suspect and happen to listen to American citizens, I don’t think that we have a legal requirement to obtain a warrant. However, if we just listen to American citizens in the hopes of catching them talking to terrorists…..different story.