Friday, August 3, 2007

More Surveillance. No, Don't Stop To Think ...

Moe and Larry want to tap your phone without a warrant.

I've been so busy with other matters that I haven't paid much attention to the news for a day or two. Apparently, in the meantime a matter of vital security interest has cropped up just before Congress' summer break. President Bush needs emergency powers to spy on Americans or the terrorists will swarm over the hills. There's even a selective leak to prove it:

When three soldiers were abducted in Iraq in mid-May, U.S. government lawyers began drafting emergency warrants to try to monitor communications that could lead to the suspected captors.

The Bush administration and its allies, The Associated Press has learned, have argued that the legal work ate up precious hours because of an odd twist to a U.S. surveillance law. One of the soldiers was later found dead in the Euphrates River, and an al-Qaida offshoot has said the others are dead as well.

US: Soldiers Case Shows Law Needs Fixing

Of course, all they really proved in that leak is that they don't understand the law they helped rewrite. They already have the right to monitor communications without a warrant, even if they involved a U.S. citizen, for up to 72 hours without a warrant. Oh, wait, it's because of a super double-secret court ruling we can't read:

Normally, warrants wouldn't be needed to eavesdrop on foreigners in Iraq or elsewhere. However, since a secret federal court ruling was issued earlier this year, the Bush administration believes the government must obtain legal approval to listen in on foreign suspects when their conversations cross into the extensive U.S. communications network.

US: Soldiers Case Shows Law Needs Fixing

According to a secret court decision that we can't read, the Bush Administration feels that they need warrants now. How many times do you get to say that the dog ate your homework in Washington? He's threatening to keep Congress in session until they give him what he needs. Congress appears ready to go along with this. For me, this brings to mind a simple question.

Has everyone in Washington gone crazy?

Well, maybe not everyone:

"In a situation like that, everyone wishes you would have had the information instantaneously," said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., also an intelligence committee member. "In that situation, I think you would find that they would have had the information at a very early time, but for the process that was set up."

Tierney thinks the problem is with the bureaucracy, not the law.

US: Soldiers Case Shows Law Needs Fixing

Gee, ya think? Wired has an excellent article on the ramifications of the proposed changes.

Did [AP reporter Laurie] Kellman read the proposed bill? The bill (.pdf) that would change the nation's surveillance laws so that that the government would be free to spy on the contents of an Americans' phone or emails so long as the government "reasonably believes" the person is not in the country.

"Provided, that nothing in this definition shall be construed to encompass surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States."

How does Kellman characterize the proposed changes?

The new plan, offered late last week by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, would change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow surveillance without a warrant of terror suspects who are overseas.

Yes, true. But it would also allow surveillance of all Americans who are not terrorism suspects who are overseas. The government has never needed a warrant to listen to non-Americans outside the country, so long as the interception happens outside the United States.

Government Presses to Turn Internet into Giant Spy Machine; AP Reports Citizen's Rights Being Protected

The President and the Department of Justice have all the powers they could possibly need under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

If the Attorney General authorizes such emergency employment of electronic surveillance, he shall require that the minimization procedures required by this subchapter for the issuance of a judicial order be followed. In the absence of a judicial order approving such electronic surveillance, the surveillance shall terminate when the information sought is obtained, when the application for the order is denied, or after the expiration of 72 hours from the time of authorization by the Attorney General, whichever is earliest.

TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I 7gt; § 1805 (FISA)

What they appear to want is much worse, the right to spy on anybody as long as they can lie afterward that they didn't think those folks were in the country. As the Wired article notes, much of the terrestrial communications in the world pass through the United States.

President Bush's lame attempt to put their intelligence failures down to terrorists using throw-away cellphones are so transparent that a ten year old child could see through them. The President, and this President in particular, has all the powers he needs. If he doesn't, he can certainly wait until after the summer to get them.

If Congress wants to make good use of its time while they're in session, I'd say more investigation of the President's illegal conduct might be just the thing to pass the time.

Would you trust this man with your Constitutional rights?

UPDATE (Aug. 4): You'll be happy to know that Congress didn't stop to think:

The Senate bowed to White House pressure last night and passed a Republican plan for overhauling the federal government's terrorist surveillance laws, approving changes that would temporarily give U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.

Senate Votes To Expand Warrantless Surveillance

That headline should read "Senate Votes To End Democracy In America". I sure am glad we worked so hard to create a Democratic majority, aren't you? Talking Points Memo's Steve Benen quotes:

As Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said, "If this bill becomes law, Americans who communicate with a person abroad can count on one thing: The NSA may be listening."

By Steve Benen 08.04.07 -- 9:17AM

The cowards don't even have the roll call vote posted on the Senate site. They did this to us, and then adjourned and ran for home.

UPDATE 2: Not to be outdone, the House also put its brains in a jar and then gave the President what he wanted - 227 to 183. They at least had the integrity to post the roll call before they departed.


shoephone said...

I'm finished with the Senate Democrats. The 16 who voted to bend over for the idiot-king are traitors. It's that simple. And Harry Reid, clearly, has no control over his members. Now he whines that McConnell lied to the Dems, but that won't change a thing. I don't believe the words "leadership" and "Harry Reid" can ever be used in the same sentence again.

There is no such thing as the 4th amendment. It no longer exists. The U.S. govt. is now the Politburo. Our courts do the bidding of the idiot-king and we have no legal recourse.

They have killed America.

Cujo359 said...

Hi shoephone,

See my, update, just posted. The bastards ran away without even posting a roll call for the vote.

We seem to have come full circle in the last few years. We now have a secret government from whom none of its citizens can count themselves as safe.

I don't like Harry Reid as a leader and never have. Yet he's where he is because a majority of Democrats voted for him over the alternatives. There are clearly at least a dozen other problems in the Senate claiming to be Democrats. The Republicans, as usual, appear to be doing exactly what they're told. I can't imagine that more than two or three sided with their country on this issue.