Yesterday we noted the news that a secret court had ruled that a law passed by Congress empowering the president to eavesdrop without a warrant was constitutional.
But there was debate over the broader implications of the ruling. The New York Times suggested that it could give “legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has constitutional authority to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping.”
But other commentators disagreed, arguing that the decision bore only on the law under review.
Now the Times has modified its take in a new story, which cautions higher up that the ruling “did not directly address whether President Bush was within his constitutional powers in ordering domestic wiretapping without warrants, without first getting Congressional approval,”
Still, the picture remains murky. One law professor tells the paper that “while the ruling did not address Mr. Bush’s surveillance without warrants directly, ‘it does bolster his case’ by recognizing that eavesdropping for national security purposes did not always require warrants.”
But a national security law expert disagrees, saying: “I think this kind of maintains the status quo. I don’t think it is a surprise that the FISA court found that the legislation was constitutional.”