Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Privacy Government Security United States Your Rights Online

Cold War Warrantless Wiretapping 85

somanyrobots writes "President Gerald Ford secretly authorized the use of warrantless domestic wiretaps for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes soon after coming into office, according to a declassified document. The Dec. 19, 1974, White House memorandum, marked Top Secret / Exclusively Eyes Only and signed by Ford, gave then-Attorney General William B. Saxbe and his successors in office authorization 'to approve, without prior judicial warrants, specific electronic surveillance within the United States which may be requested by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.'" And reader jlaprise1 adds, "My research [from 2009] makes the news! President Ford authorized warrantless wiretaps in December 1976 and laid the foundation (PDF) for US telecommunications security policy."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cold War Warrantless Wiretapping

Comments Filter:
  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:24AM (#31723220)
    This can't really surprise anyone. I'm sure there are plenty of things our government has kept from us either "for our own good" (their rationale for hiding their actions) and for national security reasons (we can't disclose everything). But how much do we really want to know? No matter how much they tell us we always suspect more ... and the conspiracy theorists will only use the truth to build even more elaborate plots of imaginative intrigue and nefarious actions.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:15AM (#31723484)

    I guess we'll find out in ~40 years, when we are either dead, or too old to care any more.

    Although, "Get off my lawn!" crimes have no statute of limitations, and you are never to old to scream it.

    So what secret authorizations were issued by Bush . . . and are still in effect under Obama?

    I guess I will probably never know.

    Ah, isn't ignorance bliss?

  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:08AM (#31723800) Homepage

    I am afraid you folks down south of the border (I am Canadian) have been reduced to having an illusion of democracy and your Constitutional Rights. I know the average American supports the Constitution and believes implicitly in the American system of government etc. Its a great system overall, but I think its been abused for the past 50 years or so - at least by the Republicans when in power. You don't have a right to privacy, you don't have the right of free speech, you don't have the right to avoid unlawful search and seizure - all those things have been stripped away systematically by succeeding US presidencies. These things have been done in the name of "National Security", but really they are in large part a way for the party in power to stay in power, and for the Republicans to keep control over US society and its laws. I hope something is done to rectify this, perhaps Obama can manage it, but I highly doubt much will change.
    Good luck getting your country back!

    Sadly, under Prime Minister Harper, my country is heading the same way. We have a prime minister who is willing to prorogue Parliament whenever there is the possibility that he might be challenged over his cavalier actions. He has done so twice so far and I see no signs he is likely to stop until he is unelected. Sadly the opposition parties can't find their asses with both hands at the moment, so the whole country suffers.

  • by jjo ( 62046 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#31724078) Homepage
    There seems to be a common understanding around Slashdot that domestic warrantless wiretapping is always unconstitutional.

    Wiretapping is not mentioned in the Constitution, but one's "persons, houses, papers, and effects" have been interpreted in many but not all cases to include electronic communications. Some of the cases where the courts have not extended constitutional protection in this way are for foreign communications and for domestic communications with agents of foreign powers.

    A few years after the Ford memo mentioned above, Congress passed the FISA statute, in an attempt to somewhat restrict these constitutionally-permitted warrantless wiretaps. However, it is not a settled question whether the Congress has the right, through legislation, to restrict the President's authority, as Commander-in-Chief, to conduct otherwise-constitutional foreign intelligence operations.

    The bottom line is that the issue is not as clear as you might think.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:56AM (#31724118)

    What I find so sad is that every time a leader commits a crime in the United States someone finds new history to say "they've always done it that way". I think the country and the system deserve to actually follow their own laws maybe that way it might get better. Laws should apply to people in power, not just the downtrodden.

  • Why bother to ask? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:21AM (#31724298)
    The majority of people would just label the answers as conspiracy theories. Do you know that THERE WERE people during cold war times who accused the government of warrantless wiretapping? And what did those people receive in return? They were either labelled as conspiracy theorists or KGB agents or communist sympathizers. Pretty much the same is happening now against intellectuals like Noam Chomsky.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:23AM (#31724314)

    I love how you always have to get Reagan in on it. It's the moonbat circle of truth.

    The vast majority of people that actually did the acts you speak were around for administrations of both parties. You choose to see the evil figure head in your ideological opposite party. Shocking, I know. This is what happens when you build a giant central government with large police and intelligence organs. To think it would magically be less of a problem when your team is in office is delusional. The only difference is what people choose to see, report, and believe.

    Now, by all means, carry on with your sermon.

  • by Lakitu ( 136170 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:33AM (#31724392)

    No, it's just that with a press corps that overwhelmingly identifies with the Democratic party, the excesses of Republicans are more likely to be investigated and reported on.

    Not quite. It's fun to believe in, but really, you're just an idiot with a persecution complex for doing so.

    They "always seem" to be Republicans because there's a terribly small sample size. There's only been 44 P's OTUS, and 2 of them have now been indicated as having "corrupted and subverted existing [wiretapping] laws", so it's not surprising at all that they are both affiliated with the same party.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:20PM (#31725272) Homepage Journal

    No. The Supreme Court has repeatedly and consistently held that no search is reasonable without a warrant, except in "exigent circumstances", where delay for a warrant is likely to give the suspect time to destroy the evidence required for a warrant. The only other exceptions, automobiles and consented searches, do not apply here. And the FISA requirements for post facto warrants do not limit issuance in only exigent circumstances.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard