By Chris Anderson

Congress gave President Bush a victory on August 4 when it voted into law many controversial government spying activities. Now it will be legal for the government to spy on people’s phone and e-mail conversations without first getting a warrant (permission) from a court.

Under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the government has to get special permission from a court to spy on U.S. citizens. The FISA law was created to protect people’s privacy after it was discovered that the government had been spying on U.S. citizens for a long time. With the new law passed in August, the government no longer has to get special permission.

The Bush administration had been spying on U.S. citizens illegally for six years. Law professor and National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn told news program Democracy Now!, “They [Congress] have not only legalized what Bush was doing before, but I think it’s highly unlikely that the Bush administration officials will be brought to justice for the felonies that they have been committing since 2001.”

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that people have the right to be protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and that the government must give a reason and get permission before searching someone. But Bush and other supporters of the new law say that it is needed to “keep America safe.”