Balkinization  

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Senate Passes Administration Bill [UPDATED with Link to and Analysis of S.1927]

Marty Lederman

So much for the Democratic/DNI bill. Ancient history. We're back to a White House-penned bill now, S.1927.

Before the vote, the head of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, "excoriated" the White House bill, saying it "provides a weak and practically nonexistent court review." [Preliminary description and analysis below.]

And then the Senate passed the bill, 60-28. (The bill reportedly is operative for only six months.) Every Republican voted for the bill, as did 16 Democrats (Lincoln AR; Prior AR; Feinstein CA; Salazar CO; Carper DE; Nelson FL; Inouye HI; Bayh IN; Landrieu LA; Mikulski MD; McCaskill MO; Klobuchar MN; Conrad ND; Nelson NE; Casey PA; Webb VA) and Joe Lieberman -- roll call vote here.

In the category of "Glass Half-Full," how's this?:
"I’m not thrilled," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "There are some changes we need to make to make sure that American citizens are protected. But it's a lot better than a lot of things that have been forced down this Congress' throat right before recesses that trampled on American's liberties."
Now there's an inspiring selling point: "Vote for the FISA Amendment -- It Tramples on Even Fewer Liberties Than the Military Commissions Act!" (That's going to go over really well at the YearlyKos breakfast this morning.)

House vote tomorrow. It is expected that the bill will be approved. The Republican strategy? Comments such as this, from the chief Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith: "I hope that there are no attacks before we are able to effectively update this important act."

UPDATE:

The key provision of S.1927 is new section 105A of FISA (see page 2), which categorically excludes from FISA's requirements any and all "surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States."

For surveillance to come within this exemption, there is no requirement that it be conducted outside the U.S.; no requirement that the person at whom it is "directed" be an agent of a foreign power or in any way connected to terrorism or other wrongdoing; and no requirement that the surveillance does not also encompass communications of U.S. persons. Indeed, if read literally, it would exclude from FISA any surveillance that is in some sense "directed" both at persons overseas and at persons in the U.S.

The key term, obviously, is "directed at." The bill includes no definition of it.

As I understand new sections 105B and 105C, even if the surveillance is "directed at" foreigners, and therefore is no longer governed by the existing FISA requirements, if the DNI and AG wish to authorize "acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States," they will still have to do at least two things:

(i) meet certain minimization requirements (page 3); and

(ii) make a one-time submission to the FISA Court (see page 9) of the "procedures by which the Government determines that acquisitions conducted pursuant to section 105B do not constitute electronic surveillance" (i.e., are not covered by FISA). (The procedures would have to be updated and resubmitted annually.) In other words, the DNI and AG would have to explain to the FISA Court how it is that they determine that a certain category of surveillance is not "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States."

The FISA Court would then be required to determine whether those procedures for satisfying the "directed at" exemption "are reasonably designed to ensure that acquisitions conducted pursuant to [the surveillance] do not constitute electronic surveillance." In making this already deferential determination, "[t]he court’s review shall be limited to whether the Government's determination is clearly erroneous."

The DNI and AG would also have to certify (page 3) that a "significant purpose" of this new, non-FISA-compliant surveillance "is to obtain foreign intelligence information." This doesn't exclude the possibility that another purpose -- another significant or predominant purpose, even -- could be to obtain information not related to "foreign intelligence." Moreover, there would be no real way of enforcing even this modest certification requirement. It would come before the FISA Court, if at all, only indirectly, if someone receiving an order for assistance -- i.e., a serivce provider -- challenges the legality of the directive they've received, in which case a FISA judge must determine whether the directive to the service provider is unlawful (page 7).

Comments:

The House had a test vote on the Democratic leadership bill, under a procedure (suspension of the rules) that required two-thirds for passage.

The Democrats did demonstrate that they could hold a 218-207 majority in the face of the heavy White House terror tactics. If that vote holds tomorrow when the bill is called up under a conventional rule, there will be a conference situation between that bill and the White House bill that the Senate voted for.
 

First the MCA, now this. And the Democrats wonder why they're regarded as sissies.
 

My comment above assumes, of course, that Democrats have the stomach to continue the fight.
 

Anderson is right. Why the Democrats feel the need to fold to a 28-percent president trying to circumvent the Constitution is quite beyond me. Show a little spine.

Sometimes it seems like they're waking up, and then...
 

I second the "spine" comments ... a reasonable person would think the Democratic majority would have the upper hand given the recent AG hearings and his weasel words on this very subject matter plus past actions by the administration that most probably violated FISA w/o constitutional sanction.

With all of that, to quote Marty Lederman, are we to believe that "Dems largely capitulated to DNI McConnell's demands" ...

If so, how can we take them seriously?
 

What numbers! The lemmings reached critical mass and stormed the cliff. Worse than the MCA! Now the AG is a known lackey, and they no longer have the ruling party's apron strings to hide behind.

The lemming stampede should be bicameral. The only hope I see is that Pelosi drew a thicker line in the sand than Reid.

If this bill passes it will be the negotiating floor six months down the road, with or without an attack from The One Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken.
 

The NYT story -- the Times finally started covering this legislative story, now that it is almost over -- says the Democrats expect to fold Saturday:

"The House is expected to take up the White House-backed measure on Saturday morning before going into its summer recess.

"Democratic leaders acknowledged that the bill would probably pass."
 

What conditions might exist that would cause the dems to uncharacteristically support the president? Keep in mind, that the bill enables the us to spy on terrorists under conditions that are not presently legal.
 

Whatever those conditions may be, Jeff, they aren't present with this bill. While you may be right that this bill allows the NSA to spy on terrorists that can't be reached at the moment, it also allows the NSA to spy on virtually anyone that can't presently be reached.
 

When the target is a person overseas but one of the parties to the communication is in the US, FISA now requires a warrant to intercept communications in the US. FISA does not require a warrant for the NSA to intercept the same communication in one of the other countries through which it passes (England, Spain, Italy, Egypt, and Pakistan in the case of al Qaeda), nor if the conversation is rerouted to use satellite bandwidth instead of fiber cable, nor if one of the cables is tapped under the sea by equipment installed by one of the specially equipped submarines the Navy has for the purpose. All this bill does is to allow the NSA to do in the simple and obvious way what they can legally do today through more expensive or cumbersome means.

Of course the ability to legally intercept any individual communication using such means is not the same thing as the ability to monitor large amounts of communication for key phrases or identifiable voices. For that you need big computers that are best located in or near domestic switching centers. Thus this bill enables entire programs of communications monitoring that would not be both legal and technically reasonable without it.

If the NSA can now monitor all telephone calls from Pakistan and Afghanistan with equipment that can detect Bin Laden's voice, the fact that such equipment will process and ignore someone's birthday call home to relatives does not invade their privacy.
 

Why do I feel less safe?

Claire McCaskill has earned herself a rattlesnake flag that reads "Be Gentle" where it used to say "Don't Tread On Me".
 

The language of proposed 105A is astonishing in its breadth. I would note that there's no requirement that the "person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States" NOT be a U.S. citizen.

Am I reading this correctly that, if this is enacted, then the next time Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, or John Boehner travels to Iraq, as a result of this change of law it is now legally permissible for the Bush Administration to intercept and read any and all phone calls, emails, etc. he has once he sets foot outside of the United States?

Presumably this can't repeal the 4th Amendment, so if those intercepted calls turn up evidence of a crime (Boehner arranging for delivery of a bribe from drug industry lobbyists, say, via blackberry) it could not be introduced in a court of law. Likewise perhaps (?) there'd be a civil action under section 1983 for violations of 4th amendment rights, but there would be no crime on the part of Alberto Gonzalez sitting in the basement of the Justice Department reading through those emails.

Am I right???
 

What I really want to know is exactly what dog whistle were the 16 Dems responding to? They don't think the Trent Lott "get out of Washington 'cuz we're all going to die" type fear-mongering still plays do they? What precisely do they fear?

Truly a sad day for governance and the true security of America.

... and I also am interested in what packerland notes. Is it mere physical location of the individual, or is there some other meaning of "located outside the United States".
 

If all sides agree that FISA should be limited to "US persons," this Senate bill appears to do just that.

This Dem rhetoric about violating the rights of US citizens by excluding foreigners from FISA is ridiculous on it face and is designed for consumption by the anti military attendees of YearlyKos.

For surveillance to come within this exemption, there is no requirement that it be conducted outside the U.S.; no requirement that the person at whom it is "directed" be an agent of a foreign power or in any way connected to terrorism or other wrongdoing; and no requirement that the surveillance does not also encompass communications of U.S. persons.

There is no reason why it should. NSA is conducting foreign intelligence gathering, not seeking a FISA or Article III warrant to gather evidence against a US person.

Indeed, if read literally, it would exclude from FISA any surveillance that is in some sense "directed" both at persons overseas and at persons in the U.S.

I am absolutely sure that this bill was intended on removing from FISA situations where foreign persons are calling into the US, which if the reporting is correct, includes most or all of the TSP.

We had previous discussions about whether FISA even applied to situations where the target was a foreigner calling into the US. This reform clarifies that FISA does not apply to those situations and is instead limited to domestic surveillance of US persons.
 

I read 105A the same way (as making an Orwellian definition of "electronic survellance") - and see parts of 105B as completely circular.

Any comments on the notion of sunsetting immunity? THe text of the sunsetting amendment isn't on Thomas.
 

Can there even be a 4th amendment violation if the Congress and Courts are using the same playbook? The executive will never respect an amendment that restricts it power -- all evidence is reasonably acquired from that point of view.
 

This bill is an abomination. The Democrats are spineless cowards.
 

Of all the names of Democrats that voted for this travesty, the most surprising (and disappointing) to me was Jim Webb. He is supposed to be one of the new guys that is going to change things, and he has the knowledge and experience to know better.
 

Among the votes for the White House bill were two senators who like to posture as protectors of FISA: Arlen Specter and Dianne Feinstein. A switched vote by either would have defeated the bill.

BTW, since the Senate adjourned for its August recess last night, there obviously was no Democratic strategy even to amend the bill in the House. Democratic leaders, having promised to pass something before they recess, left themselves no option but to accept the White House ultimatum without resistance.

The House vote last night on its own bill was never more than symbolic, since it was taken up under a procedure requiring an impossible two-thirds majority. If Pelosi intended it as a serious legislative move for passage, she would employ a conventional rule that would allow passage by simple majority.

So absent some extraordinary surprise today in the House, we must conclude that Democratic leaders took a calculated dive on this one.
 

Of course the ability to legally intercept any individual communication using such means is not the same thing as the ability to monitor large amounts of communication for key phrases or identifiable voices. For that you need big computers that are best located in or near domestic switching centers. Thus this bill enables entire programs of communications monitoring that would not be both legal and technically reasonable without it.

If the NSA can now monitor all telephone calls from Pakistan and Afghanistan with equipment that can detect Bin Laden's voice, the fact that such equipment will process and ignore someone's birthday call home to relatives does not invade their privacy.


Yes, but -- ignoring that there are lots of persons outside the US besides OBL -- it comes down to what's being made feasible. And a quantitative difference can amount to a qualitative one, particularly where the administrator conflates the national security with the enhancement of partisan and executive power.

What rankles me no less is that congressional oversight provisions are stripped out. This will not catch terrorists. And how is Congress to decide whether to extend in 6 months knowing no more than it does now? The answer is being written before our eyes this weekend.
 

I think oo has it right. The discomfort everyone feels is not related to anti-military sentiment. It is that this tool is being given to folks who have used private email accounts to conduct official business in order to avoid subpoenas and national archiving requirements, claimed to be part of two branches of governments to assume the protections of both without the burdens of either, and fired competent USAGs for political reasons. Take people like Rove and Addington out of the executive, and it will have an entirely different feel - though the the potential for them or those like them to return should still be cause for alarm regarding the current bill.

-- The Casual Observer
 

I apologize in advance for veering off point, but I am very concerned about what this Democratic cave-in on FISA portends for the war-funding authorization in September. I simply cannot see the Democrats doing ANYTHING meaningful, such as denying war funding or even insisting upon funding attached predicated upon phase withdrawal. I strongly suspect that the Democrats will capitulate yet again when push comes to shove and give Bush whatever he demands. Is ANYBODY optomistic that the Dems will stand up?
 

Klobuchar??

Feinstein???

The conditions under which the Congress passed the bill are another transparently fraudulent "terror alert", this one aimed only at Congress:

Capitol Police officials have stepped up the department’s security presence on Capitol Hill in response to intelligence indicating the increased possibility of an al-Qaida terrorist attack on Congress sometime between now and Sept. 11.

The August-to-Sept. 11 time frame was confirmed by a Capitol Police source who said Congressional security officials were recently made aware of the potential threat by federal anti-terrorism authorities.


[reported by Roll Call on Wednesday, relayed by TalkingPointsMemo.com

After the blatant abuse of intelligence to hype threats to stampede Congress into pre-approving a ruinous war of aggression, and to retroactively legalize torture and destroy habeas corpus, after the open, defiant lawlessness of the regime on this very issue and its open contempt for Congress, they fall for this particular Lucy-with-the-football once again.

I'm not stupid enough to go along anymore.
 

What does this have to do with national security? Whether or not a communication is a threat to national security does not depend on the locations, citizenship, or US immigration status of the communicators, nor does it depend on whether or not the communication is electronic.

As Ben Franklin said, "those who would sacrifice essential liberty for some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
 

The abuses that led to FISA were caused by Hoover and the FBI, not some policitical hack in the White House. Despite the usual partisan conspiracy theory, NSA intelligence gathering is done by career analysts in the NSA hired over the decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations. They can distinguish between al Qaeda and the ACLU and if ordered to do anything improper would disclose such orders immediately to the House and Senate Intelligence committees (not the Judiciary committees no matter how hard their chairmen try to muscle in).

Of course there would be a problem if we let another J Edgar Hoover figure take over the NSA and run it himself for thirty years. So you address that problem directly rather than weaking our defenses against foreign attack.
 

NSA intelligence gathering is done by career analysts in the NSA hired over the decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations. They can distinguish between al Qaeda and the ACLU and if ordered to do anything improper would disclose such orders immediately to the House and Senate Intelligence committees

I simply do not have the confidence you do about this. When the White House gets actively involved in these activities, things change. Remember, DOJ was historically non-political. Trust us doesn't cut it anymore.
 

Howard, I want to believe that you are correct. However, we all know that this administration has removed such obstacles from all areas of our government, to include its military and executive agencies/departments. Neither the NSA nor the FBI are immune from careerism and certain of their members yielding to the whim of their current masters. On that score, didn't I read an allegation fairly recently that the FBI had been used to gather information on political opponents of the current administration? (This is intended to be a serious question as I deem myself to be apolitical.)
 

I second the last reply to the point per how politics interferes, but Howard's "trust the professionals" remark is annoyingly naive.

Suddenly -- like those who feign total acceptance of "civil unions" but not "marriage" for same sex couples -- we hear of a past day ... the Hoover Era ... as if this same crowd back then didn't have the same line. THAT is the problem. All is well now. You know, when key info to judge their job performance only comes via press leaks.

Or, did the Hoover FBI not consist of many "career professionals" appointed by both Democrat and Republican administrations? Lest we forget, he got his start in a Democratic Administration (Wilson).

Likewise, there is this assumed thought that as long as career professionals are involved, hey, no problemo. Only rank partisan sorts threaten our liberties. Brandeis' words in his dissent in Olmstead ring lound here.

This thing reminds one of detective novels. Private detectives, often charming sorts, often think nothing of violating privacy in the pursuit of thier benign ends. "Good" people do troublesome things too esp. when professional they have different concerns than those expressed here.

But, yes, ultimately we have to realize WHO is running the show. How exactly -- see Glenn Greenwald today -- we are supposed to "trust them" when their bosses are the likes of Bush and the AG is beyond me. A quite rather passionless sort would reasonable say that was downright unreasonable.

Seems quite telling given the 4A, I say.
 

The abuses that led to FISA were caused by Hoover and the FBI, not some policitical hack in the White House.

A great many of Hoover's abuses were directly authorized by the White House. Just for example, Bobby Kennedy signed off on the MLK, Jr. wiretaps. There's no doubt Hoover acted on his own much of the time, but...

1. There were plenty of times when Presidents of both parties used Hoover for their own political ends; and

2. I see every reason to expect that someone similar to Hoover will eventually be appointed as DNI. It's only a matter of time.

This is not a partisan issue. The abuses by Hoover benefited D's and R's alike. It's an issue of quies custodiet. Every American has an interest in that.
 

Howard,

Like others I wish you were right. In A Pretext for War Jim Bamford gives a blow-by-blow description of the technical crisis 9/11 brought to the fore within the intelligence community. He painted picture like yours. I don't dispute it. It is authentic. But for Bamford it's a minor theme.

Let me repeat. The bill eliminates the oversight Congress had asked for. That demand had zero to do with catching terrorists. It had another reason: How we are governed is becoming more and more opaque, private, concentrated, and unanswerable to public opinion.

We see daily evidence that the civil service is being reprofessionalized in furtherance of these trends. The intelligence community is hardly immune to them. In most respects they can fit in simply by playing to type, for reasons brought out here.

What you see as restoring the spy business to the status quo ante is in a sense correct, but it is also in synergy with these antidemocratic trends, which are further along than most dare admit to themselves. Our republic is slipping away. This bill greases the skids.
 

Adding to those who have already responded to Howard's dismissal -- which is either hopelessly naive or cynically disingenuous -- of concerns over the breadth of scope of this bill:

Even assuming arguendo that Howard is correct about the upstanding character of NSA professionals (who, if he is to be believed, apparently take their duty to uphold the United States Constitution far more seriously than do all Republican Senators and 16 Democratic Senators), why does Howard presume that any and all intelligence-gathering must, of necessity, run through the NSA?

Indeed, hasn't one significant aspect of the scandal surrounding the march to war in Iraq involved the issue of "stovepiping" intelligence and doing end-runs around the equally serious, nonpartisan professionals at Langley?

Under present law, if the Executive Office of the Vice President set up its own independent wiretapping operation, gathering information on all electronic communications involving all elected officials while on official business outside of the United States, it would be illegal.

Under this bill, if enacted, such communications would not be covered by FISA and such activity would be legal so long as it could be argued to satisfy the vague definition of "foreign intelligence information".

And in light of everything we've learned over the past 6 years, if you believe that the employees of the Bush-Cheney Administration would be morally incapable of engaging in such behavior, then I would submit that you are the one who is delusionally engaged in the "usual partisan conspiracy theory" mongering.

But again, let's assume arguendo and in the face of all evidence to the contrary that the current members of the Bush Administration wouldn't engage in such behavior. Having rendered such behavior no longer criminal, the only thing protecting the American people from such mass surveillance is that "we trust that the people in office won't abuse their trust and take their commitment to the Constitution and to post-Enlightenment principles of basic human rights and civil liberties seriously" (again, in the face of all eveidence to the contrary),

then tell me just exactly what differentiates our system of government from a Benevolent Dictatorship?
 

If you think there's no possibility of undue influence from the top on the NSA, you need to read up on our current DNI. He's a former director of the NSA, and former lobbyist for the private intelligence industry.(The combination of the two explains much of the outsourcing craze, if only a small part)
 

-- then tell me just exactly what differentiates our system of government from a Benevolent Dictatorship? --
.
Our form of government has a greater number of "dictators" than exists in the textbook version of dictatorship.
.
But seriously, the tension between personal autonomy and responsibility accompanied by small government vs. government the protector/provider is age old stuff.
.
The people expect government protection and a safety net, and obtaining that isn't "free."
.
What disappoints me is that the debate over the inevitable trade-offs is conducted more on emotional and partisan grounds than on rational grounds.
 

I would pose questions to those who worry that this bill is a travesty violation of your constitutional rights:

1) How do you anticipate that the international telecommunications of you or anyone you know will be subject to the TSP as it has been reported? Are you at all likely to call or be called from foreign numbers used by al Qaeda?

2) Assuming that you are one of the incredibly miniscule subset of the US citizenry who may innocently call or be called from a foreign number used by al Qaeda, exactly what reasonable expectation of privacy do you have in making or receiving such and international call? Every other border crossing is subject to inspection without the need to obtain a warrant under the 4th Amendment. Why would your telecommunications be any different?
 

"Under present law, if the Executive Office of the Vice President set up its own independent wiretapping operation, gathering information on all electronic communications involving all elected officials while on official business outside of the United States, it would be illegal." Maybe, but not under FISA. If the wiretaps are done overseas, then FISA is silent about it because electronic surveilliance is only defined to include targeted US persons in the US or intercepts made in the US. Since the DNI and AG both have to sign off on any program, it is unlikely to happen outside the NSA.

You can't create a second NSA in a basement of the White House, nor do you need to. You see, in most of the interesting places (Pakistan, Iraq) there are local secret police already listening in on such visitors, plus a dozen or so foreign secret services (Mossad, Russians, Chinese, etc.) with perfectly adequate equipment to track a soft target like a politician. This or any future White House is in a position to make a side deal with any of these agencies to provide consideration in return for any useful intercepts. This also doesn't violate FISA since no US law can constrain what other governments do overseas. This is so simple and undetectable that it would be insane to do it any other way.
 

I'll ignore the inane trollery of Bart "your defense of civil liberties triggers suspicion" DePalma, but respond to cboldt since he/she seems to actually to be interested in genuine discourse.

-- then tell me just exactly what differentiates our system of government from a Benevolent Dictatorship? --
.
Our form of government has a greater number of "dictators" than exists in the textbook version of dictatorship.


But in all seriousness, that's precisely the point I'm challenging. Yes, of course it's always been the case that, say, if a crooked DA decides he doesn't like you and brings a weak murder case against you using falsified evidence, and if he pays off the jury to find you guilty, and the trial judge is either incompetent or in league with the DA, and ( . . . continue with the series . . .) then there's left to protect you from having your liberty taken away without morally justifiable cause or procedural due process -- or, alternatively, at the higher-level case we're looking at, that if the President decides he just isn't going to follow a Supreme Court ruling against him (and he disdainfully suggests "the Justices have rendered their decision; now let them enforce it") -- that then we're left with a consitutional crisis and absent a Congress willing to impeach or otherwise hold the rogue President to account, he has effectively elevated himself above the rule of law.

But that's precisely my point -- there are numerous checks and balances, and in a well-developed mature representative democracy committed to the rule of law, miscarriages of justice are supposed to require so many independent actors buying in that -- absent a grand conspiracy -- they are by design thought to be remote.

This law quite literally places in the hands of two people (one of whom serves "at the pleasure" of the other) the legal ability to engage in precisely the sort of mass surveillance of political enemies that I described above.

My comment was partly intended to be a pre-emptive response to those who say "you're crazy if you compare the U.S. under Bush to an authoritarian monarchy -- federal authorities aren't actually rounding up large numbers of non-citizens and holding them in detention centers indefinitely without access to legal counsel or recourse to a court merely on the say-so of the President (as the MCA quite literally would allow, as a legal matter)" -- but the point is, whether a government IS in fact arresting people at will and holding them in dungeons incommunicado forever, and torturing political enemies, isn't the test of whether it's authoritarian vs. a western-style representative democracy -- rather, it's the fact that the government in fact arrogates to itself the right to do so.

(In part, because the expectation is that, human nature being what it is, a strategy of giving absolute power to Good Men (and Women) and hoping for the best is ultimately doomed -- Federalist 51's "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary" and all that jazz.)

In fact, I would argue and suspect as a historical matter that the most effective authoritarians are the ones who torture and detain the least number of political opponents -- because the strength of the threat is sufficient to keep everyone in line and to keep people from speaking out in the first place. (I suspect that Louis XIVth and Caesar Augustus and Philip II tortured far fewer than far less competent tyrants).

And finally, as to the comment that "What disappoints me is that the debate over the inevitable trade-offs is conducted more on emotional and partisan grounds than on rational grounds" which I presume to be at least partly directed at me (since your comment led off by quoting me), I'm not sure what to make of that. I'm not sure if what you really intend to be saying here is that anything other than Benthamite Utilitarianism (a rational weighing of the various costs and benefits of safety versus freedom, in which case a finite number of utiles is assigned to each individual's liberty) is "disappointing" to you, or what? Because those of us more steeped in the Lockean and Kantian traditions -- and certainly most of our founding fathers -- tend to view certain things as sacrosanct, or if you will "inalienable," such that no countervailing ends can justify infringing on those rights. Sorry if that disappoints you.
 

Bart,

Let me see if I've got this straight. We have no right to demand that we not be spied on unless we can prove we're being spied on. And if we can prove we're being spied on, we have no right to demand that we not be spied on.

This is -- did you ever read "Catch-22'" when you were younger? You might want to go back and read it. It's very interesting. It seems to be part of your training manual.

Sorry. Gotta go. Someone's trying to make me safe.
 

occasional observer said...

Bart, Let me see if I've got this straight. We have no right to demand that we not be spied on unless we can prove we're being spied on. And if we can prove we're being spied on, we have no right to demand that we not be spied on.

No, in order to claim that you have lost "rights" because the government is "illegally" spying upon you, you must first present some evidence of the predicate claim that the government is in fact spying upon you.
 

The language "directed at" sounds a lot more like a blunderbuss weapon than targeted surveillance.

By its nature, the blunderbuss is not a very precise weapon nor one which could fire very far. It has seen most of its use as a means of self-defence, as the spread of shot meant that one did not need to be particularly skilled in aiming to wound or kill intruders or attackers. It has also seen use in hunting, where the aforementioned spread of shot allowed a greater chance of hitting small fast-moving animals, such as rabbits or birds. Although it was sometimes used in a military setting, it was more effective when the goal was not to hit a specific target, but rather any one of multiple targets, such as for crowd control. During combat, the blunderbuss was a very unpredictable weapon; it could hit an entire group of enemy soldiers or miss all of them. The blunderbuss thus became a byword for inaccurate marksmanship in any field. As well, the word itself came to mean "a clumsy or stupid person". It was also a common weapon of choice among pirates when boarding ships.

This bill is about giving the Bush administration the ability to have bad aim on purpose.
 

Bart,

I would pose questions to those who worry that this bill is a travesty violation of your constitutional rights:

1) How do you anticipate that the international telecommunications of you or anyone you know will be subject to the TSP as it has been reported?


In case you've been missing out on recent developments, it is becoming increasingly clear that the TSP as it has been reported is not the only game in town. Something much more extensive has gone on in the past, and may still be going on. In asking us to limit our concerns to the TSP as it has been reported is taking the Gonzales approach, "Nothing to see there, folks. Move along."

I am not willing to accept assurances of, "Trust us; we're the government." Apparently you are.
 

The Democrats should have called George Bush's bluff on this one; passed a bill expanding his surveillance powers and then accused him of being soft on terrorism and/or being a spoiled child insisting on his own way and "playing politics with national security" if he vetoed.

The whole thing smacks of political theater.
 

Am I the only one who sees the bitter irony of The Bourne Ultimatum - a movie about an out-of-control and unchecked CIA program targeting US citizens - grossing 70 million box office dollars the same week-end that the US Congress passes a bill legitimizing unchecked espionage targeting US citizens? Apparently the movie-going public knows something our Congressional representatives do not.
 

Howard:

The abuses that led to FISA were caused by Hoover and the FBI, not some policitical hack in the White House.

"Ben, one word, just one word. You listening? 'Nixon'"....

Nixon's shenanigans were a major impetus for the Church Commission and the subsequent FISA laws, even if some of the abuses eventually uncovered had preceded Nixon's reign. And part of the reason that Nixon's shenanigans were so shocking is that they were "political".

Cheers,
 

It is naive to think the US does not collect intel (spy is such an ugly word) on every major government and group in the world.
However it is another example of the incompetence of our current Administration that a low-level contractor would have access to sources and methods involving a NATO ally. authority spy bonus
 

Post a Comment

Home