"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probablecause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." – Fourth Amendment
Was Bush (Congress, the NSA, whomever) wrong to employ the kinds of wiretaps he did? Did he violate Constitutional law? I don’t know. Just because a certain power is not forbidden to the federal government by the Constitution, doesn’t mean it’s licit.
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." – Tenth Amendment
The government’s powers must be explicitly stated, but the people’s rights don’t have to be. There are those who say that these wiretaps are permissible under Constitutional law. Perhaps they are. Perhaps the framers never envisioned this kind of infringement on liberties, being as dependent on modern technologies as it is. However, I think the framers of the Constitution were concerned about the federal government infringing upon the rights that they thought citizens were entitled to.
The Constitution isn’t an infallible document. It would need to change in subtle ways as times and situations changed. It may be wrong. Its framers knew that. That’s what amendments are for.
Maybe citizens aren’t protected by current interpretations of Constitutional law against the kinds of wiretaps that were recently revealed. If that’s the case, perhaps it’s time to amend the Constitution to provide that protection.
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819
I don’t think this country will be destoyed quickly by just a few deeds. I think rights will be slowly eaten away by narrow legal interpretations that put limits on liberties until the country that’s left isn’t worth defending. Is our current federal goverment evil or oppressive? No, of course not. However, I’m afraid that by the time we’d realize it has become oppressive, it’d be too late to reverse the damage. How many times must we patiently assent when the goverment says "trust us" before we may say "enough"?
Addendum 12/20/05:: Fr. Jim Tucker has a good round up and summary of questions raised by this controversy.