By Amanda Vender
In early 1971, a group of people called the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office, stole documents, and released them to the press. The documents showed that the U.S. government had a secret program of spying on U.S. citizens, particularly civil rights and anti-war activists. People were very angry about this program and as a result, in 1978 Congress passed a law that said that in order for the government to spy on people in the U.S., it first needs to get a warrant (approval) from a group of lawyers.
In December 2005, journalists found that the U.S. government is still spying without getting warrants. Government agents listen to private phone calls and read private email messages. President Bush says the spying is necessary to find terrorists. He says that getting a warrant takes too much time, and that the government is only spying on people who have links to terrorism.
However, newly released documents show that government agents have monitored and infiltrated several non-violent activist groups. To “infiltrate” means that secret government agents pretend to be volunteers with organizations in order to spy on their activities. The New York Times reported that many law enforcement officials said that most of the people they spied on were innocent.
Congress is holding hearings to investigate whether Bush broke the law when he ordered the spy operations. There are now new debates over how much power the president should have. Is it okay for the president to break the law when he says he is only protecting U.S. citizens? What do you think?
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