In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens and others without a warrant. The secret program first came to light in an expose by our partner The New York Times in December 2005.
President Bush insisted that the warrantless wiretapping was essential for Americans’ safety, as he explained to CBS News in July 2006. "I made the decision to listen to phone calls of al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda, from outside the country going in or inside the country going out," he explained, "because the people who are operators told me that this was one of the best ways to protect the American people."
Congress legalized this once-secret program with the passage of the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but civil libertarians claim that warrantless wiretapping is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case on this very issue. Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for our partner The New York Times, explains what's at stake.