The Right to Privacy In The War On Terror: Constitutional Questions In Eavesdropping By The U.S. Government


In October 2001 , President George W. Bush issued an executive order authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct secret wiretapping of telephone communications between U.S. citizens and terrorist suspects overseas in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The program, later called the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), remained secret until December 2005, when the New York Times revealed the existence of the TSP.

In January 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming that the NSA's surveillance program violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the separation of powers doctrine. The government argued that the program met constitutional scrutiny under the "special needs" doctrine warrant exception. Additionally, the Bush administration asserted that Congress specifically gave the President permission to authorize the program by its passing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). This thesis analyzes the constitutionality of the domestic surveillance program by discussing the constitutional questions that the NSA's program elicits under the Fourth Amendment. Also, this thesis reviews the legality of the TSP under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

After an analysis of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence in Fourth Amendment, privacy, and eavesdropping cases, this thesis concludes that the NSA' s warrantless eavesdropping program most likely violates the Fourth Amendment and the separation of powers doctrine. Further, this thesis asserts that the TSP is illegal under the FISA and that the Executive lacks statutory authorization.


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Thesis Completion





Lanier, Drew N.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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