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US government discussed warrantless searches after 9/11: report

[JURIST] In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive], US government lawyers discussed ways to search the homes and businesses of suspected terrorists without court approval at the same time they debated warrantless electronic surveillance [JURIST news archive], according to a report in the current issue of US News & World Report. A January 19, 2006 white paper [JURIST document] submitted to Congress by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] makes clear reference to physical searches, stating "the President has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes." While sources claim the proposal met with resistance from FBI Director John Mueller [official profile], FBI spokesmen have denied that the senior staff is aware of such discussions and claimed that no searches have been conducted without judicial orders.

In a September 2005 letter [PDF] to a US District Attorney, lawyer Thomas Nelson reported "strong indications" that his office and home had been searched in response to his representation of alleged terrorist Soliman H. Al-Buthi. The National Security Agency later denied [PDF] Nelson's Freedom of Information Act request for files on him and refused to confirm or deny the existence of such files. US News & World Report has more.

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