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Warrantless wiretaps expanded

A surveillance law pushed through Congress and signed by Bush on Sunday will allow the government to monitor phone calls and e-mails without a warrant.

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Although a number of Democrats in the House of Representatives had doubts about the new law, they caved under threats from the president to force congressmen to stay in session until they created a version of the law to which he could agree. Still, the British Broadcasting Corp. reports that many Democrats spoke out strongly against the law.

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"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren during the debate preceding the vote.
"I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

Just an hour after the House voted on the Legislation last Saturday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the Judiciary and Intelligence committees asking them to respond to the new legislation by addressing its "many deficiencies," reports The Congressional Quarterly.

"Many provisions of this legislation are unacceptable, and although the bill has a six month sunset clause, I do not believe the American people will want to wait that long before corrective action is taken," Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.

Government officials are apparently unhappy that details of the wiretapping program were leaked to the public. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation to discover who leaked details to the media, reports Newsweek. Agents searched Thomas M. Tamm's house and confiscated three computers. Mr. Tamm formerly worked in the secret Justice Department office that oversees surveillance of terrorists and espionage targets.

A veteran federal prosecutor who left DOJ last year, Tamm worked at OIPR [Office of Intelligence Policy and Review] during a critical period in 2004 when senior Justice officials first strongly objected to the surveillance program. Those protests led to a crisis that March when, according to recent Senate testimony, then A.G. John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others threatened to resign, prompting Bush to scale the program back. Tamm, said one of the legal sources, had shared concerns about he program's legality, but it was unclear whether he actively participated in the internal DOJ protest.
The FBI raid on Tamm's home comes when Gonzales himself is facing criticism for allegedly misleading Congress by denying there had been "serious disagreement" within Justice about the surveillance program. The A.G. last week apologized for "creating confusion," but Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy said he is weighing asking Justice's inspector general to review Gonzales's testimony.