Wednesday, August 01, 2007

CATCH-ALL Program Much Broader Than Known, FISA in Crosshairs

The media and the American people have no idea as to the shockingly inclusive nature of the data being captured by the NSA in the warrantless surveillance program.

For now, dribs and drabs about the spying are trickling out.

As T.S. Eliot wrote: "Mankind cannot bear too much reality."

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."

The administration is now trying to gut FISA, the law that they have been breaking since 9/11. They are claiming that modern technology requires a change in the law.

The administration says that digital technology and the globalization of the telecommunications industry have created a legal quandary for the intelligence community. Some purely international telephone calls are now routed through telephone switches inside the United States, which means such "transit traffic" can be subject to federal surveillance laws requiring search warrants for any government eavesdropping.

Under the program of wiretapping without warrants, which began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the N.S.A. eavesdropped on the transit traffic without seeking court approval. But in January, the administration placed the program back under the FISA law, which meant warrants were required for surveillance of the transit traffic.

This is pretty extreme:

The Bush administration is pressing Congress this week for the authority to intercept, without a court order, any international phone call or e-mail between a surveillance target outside the United States and any person in the United States.

The proposal, submitted by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to congressional leaders on Friday, would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for the first time since 2006 so that a court order would no longer be needed before wiretapping anyone "reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States." ...

"They're hiding the ball here," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office. "What the administration is really going after is the Americans. Even if the primary target is overseas, they want to be able to wiretap Americans without a warrant." ...

The proposal would also allow the NSA to "sit on the wire" and have access to the entire stream of communications without the phone company sorting, said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies.

"It's a 'trust us' system," she said. "Give us access and trust us."

The administration's apologists who justify the serial violation of FISA by claiming that modern technology renders the written law obsolete are lying.

The FISA law is cut and dried. It says domestic spying requires a warrant. President Bush has admitted authorizing the NSA to spy on Americans in the United States without a warrant.

It is exactly the same as trying to argue your way out of a ticket for running a stop sign by claiming that the advanced technology that makes up your spiffy new car means that you no longer have to stop at that prominently placed red octagon that reads STOP.


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