That is the essence of the changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act sought by President Bush and granted lock, stock and barrel, not only by Republicans but by 57 Democrats, including Utah's Rep. Jim Matheson, in the House and Senate.
The more egregious provisions of this blatant invasion of constitutionally protected privacy are these: It lets the National Security Agency cast a needlessly wide net over phone and e-mail communications, not limited to calls involving suspected terrorists but any communication coming from outside the United States, even from Americans overseas.
In most cases, no warrants are required and the law allows little oversight by Congress and essentially none by the judicial branch. Incredibly, that gives the national intelligence director and the Justice Department the responsibility to monitor themselves.
Things weren't supposed to happen this way under a Democratic-controlled Congress that has been critical of seven years of Republican rubber-stamping of the Bush administration's trampling on personal freedoms under the rubric of "fighting terrorism."
Some majority Democrats, and Republicans who also should know better, are fighting their own terror of being labeled by the White House as soft on terrorism (an al-Qaida enabler!) in the run up to the 2008 election. They would still - five years after 9/11 - rather avoid that patently ridiculous claim by sacrificing Americans' freedom not to be spied upon by their own government.
Finally, there is simply no need for this execrable law. Necessary surveillance can be carried out as it always has been, with an easily obtained warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And Congress could have, but didn't, demand regular audits of the program by the Justice Department's inspector general. Instead, we are left to rely on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the shameless Bush lackey, to blow the whistle if the surveillance runs amok.
Fortunately, the legislation expires after six months. We can only hope, but are far from optimistic, that Congress by then will have developed sufficient backbone to declare an end, not to the war on terror, but to the war on Americans' constitutional freedoms.