J. Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, has in part explained Congress’ hurry to revise domestic surveillance law. It seems that the FISA court, established three decades ago to keep the government from abusively spying on American citizens, decided that the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was illegal—and that just wouldn’t do.
Los Angeles Times:
The decision meant that the government had to get a court order to trace calls or e-mails that traveled on networks inside the United States, even if the parties at both ends were overseas.
The government obtained a temporary stay allowing it to continue intercepting e-mails and phone calls without individual warrants through May 31, McConnell said, as he began sounding alarms on Capitol Hill that a key piece of the nation’s counter-terrorism capabilities was about to be crippled.
Those warnings fueled a frantic, end-of-summer push in Congress to rewrite laws passed three decades ago, after U.S. intelligence agencies had been caught spying on student groups and other domestic targets. The emergency legislation, which is set to expire in six months, allowed the government to resume its eavesdropping operations without individual warrants.