The Law: Overruling Mitchell

After years of confusion over the legalities of electronic eavesdropping, Congress attempted to set rules in the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968. Law-enforcement agencies were permitted to wiretap in ordinary criminal cases, provided they first obtained a court-approved warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, such warrants require "probable cause"—proof that officials are probing with specific evidence of a crime, not just trying to trap possible wrongdoers. The 1968 law, though, did not limit the President's power "to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States" or "to protect the United States against the...

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