USAPATRIOT ACT Debate: Spying on U.S. Citizens

kathleen writes "WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.--New York Times.

The Washington Post states:
The revelations come amid a fierce congressional debate over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Patriot Act granted the FBI new powers to conduct secret searches and surveillance in the United States.....Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies at George Washington University, said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity...."This is as shocking a revelation as we have ever seen from the Bush administration," said Martin, who has been sharply critical of the administration's surveillance and detention policies. "It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans.""

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oboy

Everyone's in a tizzy huh? Interesting and informative post over at The Corner by Mark Levin:

"I notice the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers are using carefully cherry-picked "experts" from the ranks of the ACLU and the former Clinton administration to provide comment on the president authorizing the NSA to do what the NSA does, i.e., spy, among other things. Many of these "experts" -- joined by a few uninformed, media-obsessed politicians like Arlen Specter and Russ Feingold -- have claimed shock at the eavesdropping and have either suggested or pronounced the president's acts illegal or even unconstitutional.

Now, what exactly do we know from these hysterical reports? Not very much. As I wrote yesterday, the FISA permits the government to monitor foreign communications, even if they are with U.S. citizens. A FISA warrant is only needed if the subject communications are wholly contained in the United States and involve a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Today's Los Angeles Times writes that the program "was designed to enable the NSA to monitor communications between Americans in the U.S. and people overseas suspected of having ties to terrorist networks." Fine. That's not illegal or even unusual. And these "experts" know it. But the truth is that we have no idea of the contents of the president's executive order and, therefore, we have no idea what conduct we're supposed to be offended about. Perhaps the executive order expanded the authority of the NSA or expedited the processing of wiretaps. We just don't know. Unfortunately, the administration's hands are tied for while revealing the executive order's contents to the public might well demonstrate the appropriateness and legality of its conduct, thereby deflating the effort to create a scandal, it may well be too damaging to ongoing operations.

But clearly many members of Congress who have not spoken on the record do know about the program. As the president said today, Congress has been consulted, and often. It's remarkable that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press failed to uncover this fact. Indeed, they did the opposite. In addition to cherry-picking experts from the ACLU and the Clinton administration, the media are cherry-picking from their favorite politicians to give the opposite impression, i.e., that Congress was in the dark. And who better to react hysterically to hysterical reporting than Arlen Specter. The fact that Specter may not have been consulted, as he doesn't serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is of no consequence, except to Specter. He might want to ask his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee what they know before stomping all over their congressional-oversight turf. But for a brief mention of Jay Rockefeller's knowledge of the program in yesterday's New York Times, we've hear nothing about of from the relevant committee members. Indeed, their silence, if anything, suggests to me their likely awareness of the program, consistent with the president's statement that Congress was aware.

What is clear is that this is not some Watergate-type rogue operation, as seemingly hoped by some. In addition to repeated congressional notification, the program has been heavily lawyered by multiple agencies, including the Department of Justice and NSA and White House, and is regularly reviewed. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of State Condi Rice have both insisted that program is legal. The fact that some might disagree with whatever legal advice and conclusions the president has received does not make them right or the program illegal. But at this point, we, the public, don't really know what these news stories are really about, do we?"

Interesting and informative post

"Interesting and informative" post at The National Review? Tee Hee Hee. You keep getting funnier.

Re:Interesting and informative post

ooooo...Blake's trolling...tsk tsk

Re:Interesting and informative post

Hey I subscribe to the National Review - I'll be happy to mail them to you when I'm done with them. It is only $29/yr (or 6 months) you could always subscribe :>

The NSA has been spying on people for decades, that is their job. They don't spy on internal communications but international communications. I worked on a project with IBM that had to do with steganography and international communications. It has been legal to evesdrop on international communications since Kennedy was President. I fail to see the big deal. If people want to hear me BS with my relatives overseas then I'll be happy to record the conversations and mail them off to the NSA.

Live better electronically.

Re:Interesting and informative post

Can you troll your own site? :)

Re:Interesting and informative post

"They don't spy on internal communications but international communications." Oh, sure they don't. Check this very fresh post from Wayne Madsen's site:

December 17, 2005 -- Note on NSA spying story in yesterday's New York Times. WMR reported on May 15, 2005:

"May 15, 2005 -- According to National Security Agency insiders, outgoing NSA Director General Michael Hayden approved special communications intercepts of phone conversations made by past and present U.S. government officials.

It is noteworthy that in the fictional movie “Enemy of the State,†it was under the authority of a “training mission†that renegade NSA officials targeted U.S. civilians for eavesdropping. United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18, the NSA’s “Bible†for the conducting of surveillance against U.S. persons, allows “U.S. material,†i.e., listening to U.S. persons, to be used for training missions. However, USSID 18 also requires that all intercepts conducted for such training missions are to be completely destroyed after completion of the training operation. In the case of Bolton and other Bush administration hard liners, the material in question was not deleted and was transmitted in raw intercept form to external agencies for clearly political purposes – a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and USSID 18, which only allows such raw training mission intercepts to be transmitted when evidence of criminal activity is uncovered during the training mission. Unlike signals intelligence (SIGINT) data stored in the “Anchory†(formerly known as the SIGINT On-line Intelligence System or “SOLISâ€) database, training intercepts are completely off-the-books and, in the case of raw intercepts provided to Bolton and others, the NSA and its Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) can claim “plausible deniability†in stating that only “official†intercept transcripts were provided to users outside the agency. Because they are to be destroyed after completion of training missions, the training intercepts do not appear in any agency logs and cannot be obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unless they are subpoenaed directly from Bolton and his colleagues.

http://waynemadsenreport.com/)

Re:Interesting and informative post

This is a more readable copy of the excerpt above:

"December 17, 2005 -- Note on NSA spying story in yesterday's New York Times. WMR reported on May 15, 2005:
File As: New Contact (Lastname, Firstname)

"May 15, 2005 -- According to National Security Agency insiders, outgoing NSA Director General Michael Hayden approved special communications intercepts of phone conversations made by past and present U.S. government officials.

It is noteworthy that in the fictional movie Enemy of the State, it was under the authority of a 'training mission' that renegade NSA officials targeted U.S. civilians for eavesdropping. United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18, the NSAs 'Bible' for the conducting of surveillance against U.S. persons, allows 'U.S. material,' i.e., listening to U.S. persons, to be used for training missions. However, USSID 18 also requires that all intercepts conducted for such training missions are to be completely destroyed after completion of the training operation. In the case of Bolton and other Bush administration hard liners, the material in question was not deleted and was transmitted in raw intercept form to external agencies for clearly political purposes a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and USSID 18, which only allows such raw training mission intercepts to be transmitted when evidence of criminal activity is uncovered during the training mission. Unlike signals intelligence (SIGINT) data stored in the 'Anchory' (formerly known as the SIGINT On-line Intelligence System or 'SOLIS') database, training intercepts are completely off-the-books and, in the case of raw intercepts provided to Bolton and others, the NSA and its Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) can claim 'plausible deniability' in stating that only 'official' intercept transcripts were provided to users outside the agency. Because they are to be destroyed after completion of training missions, the training intercepts do not appear in any agency logs and cannot be obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unless they are subpoenaed directly from Bolton and his colleagues."

Re:Interesting and informative post

Well the first copy with all the Euro symbols made my head hurt, and the second referenced a work of fiction so to be truthful I didn't read the whole thing. However I feel secure that my phone calls and emails inside the US (although my email server is not in the US) are completely free from government intercepts. Then again if they are read by someone at the NSA or CIA, or FBI, or CDC or NWS or IRS, or ACLU for all I care they won't find much excitement here.

You (and by that I mean I) have to trust someone and I trust the US government to not fiddle around with my phone calls and email messages. I worked for a government project that required a clearance. I'd rather lose my clearance than disclose personal communications that were beyond the scope of the agency's mission. While all my work was theory and evidentiary rather than practical application if I had come across personal communication I would have rather had my clearance (and my right to work on that or any other US contract or as a Federal employee) revoked than reveal those communications. Truthfully I, and I am sure many others I worked with would rather die than reveal inadvertently intercepted communications.

I think comparing this to a work of fiction is just playing into the author and promoter of that fiction's hands. I've worked with and for many talented people and the law is sacrosanct. To do otherwise would undermine their own morality, citizenship and sense of duty. I am certain the average empolyee of any of the 15 members of the intelligence community would value the law above any posssible intelligence gathered. I am a librarian, I am in the business of information and intelligence as are all librarians, I will not break the law to obtain or disseminate that intelligence. To think otherwise of any intelligence professional simply gives the profession a bad name.

N.B. In the name of open disclosure I am on an approved hire list for the US Depeatment of State and have been on this list for more than 3 years. I have previously been a federal employee for the US Census Bureau.

You'll have to torture me until I die but I'll never reveal any information I obtained in my federal employment or contract work.

Not to be a putz, but the paragraph break-- the greater than sign, a letter p, and the less than sign (on the comma and period keys)-- makes it much easier to read postings. I would have typed it here but it would have started a new paragraph.

Re:oboy

Of course, by that same token the fact that Alberto Gonzales and various Senators know about the program does not make it right or legal.Secrecy and invasion of privacy in the name of national security can easily be neither. Transparency in government is necessary for a free society. Government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. If the governed are not informed of the government's actions, due to fear or whatever reason, it is certainly appropriate for the public to question the legitimacy of those actions, particularly when the public is directly affected by them.

Re:Interesting and informative post

That's like asking can you get drunk in your bar?

Re:oboy

It makes it more likely to be right and legal and transparent. The simple fact is the governed are not always informed on what goes and they will not be informed on this either. Any hearings will likely be behind closed doors. But that's why we have seperate branches of government, checks and balances, even when secrecy is necessary.

Amendment IV-Bill of Rights

Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Re:Interesting and informative post

You ought to read the rest of the post instead of making up specious excuses as to why you couldn't read the rest of it due to a reference to a fictional movie, as the rest does refer to facts. When you say you are "certain the average employee of any of the 15 members of the intelligence community would value the law above any posssible intelligence gathered," then you seem to live in a La La world of denial if you trust the government to refrain from abusing its power, especially when said abuse occurs at higher levels.

You mentioned in another post that you are a Catholic. Don't Catholics believe in the compulsive hold that sin and vice has on the human heart? If so, are US federal government employess - especially at the higher power-tripping level, referred to directly in the part of the the article quoted that you didn't bother to read - somehow immune to this compulsion and hence don't need to be watched and legally constrained? I am a former Catholic myself, and one of the main reasons I left it was the countless abuses of the hierarchy (that an important word to you?) done in the name of Authority by the functional equivalents of the people you semm so deeply willing to trust in government. You're about the most politically naive person I have ever come across on this forum!

Re:oboy

"But that's why we have seperate branches of government, checks and balances, even when secrecy is necessary." Right, but often secrecy is NOT necessary and it's often used to intensively large degrees. Check out the chapters on this very issue - of the abuse of secrecy by large organizations - in John Ralston Saul's amazing book, "Voltaire's Bastards."

Re:oboy

OK, but what do you do when one party does everything it can to blur or otherwise obliterate the balance and separation of power? Right now, there is not enough of either for me to trust the process, there is way too much corruption. Thus, when I hear something like this I personally really start to wonder.

Re:oboy

They performed, on presidential authorization alone, wiretappings that are clearly illegal without a warrant--in cases where, if the descriptions are anything like accurate, they could EASILY have obtained FISA warrants and performed the wiretappings completely legally.

Why, exactly, was it important that they break the law and ignore the constitution, rather than obtain FISA warrants which would have made the wiretaps completely legal? Or, why do you think it's unimportant that they chose to do it illegally and unconstitutionally, rather than legally and constitutionally?

Re:Interesting and informative post

I've never been called naive before on here, what a wonderful thought. I'd love to be naive. Unfortunatly I'm too much of a pragmatist and a realist to be such.

I'll pray for you though.

Re:oboy

They performed, on presidential authorization and with Congressional oversight, wiretappings that are clearly not illegal --in cases where, if the descriptions are anything like accurate, they could EASILY have obtained FISA warrants and performed the wiretappings completely legally, except for the fact that while its easy to get the warrant, the application process is tedious and time consuming.

Why, exactly, was it important that they obtain the information of who was associated with the terrorists as quickly as possible? Why do you think? This is war, not a criminal case.

Re:oboy

In other words, it's OK if Bush does it. I suspect for you that if Clinton were president, then it wouldn't be ok."This is war, not a criminal case." So using this rationalization allows the president to completely blow up constitutional protections and circumvent the law. OK. Since this is a war then, why not just chuck the whole system, why take a liberal wus half-committed route, struggling to maintain such things from a more gentile era, and instead THROW AWAY the constitution, in manly conservative fashion, and declare Bush king, and just let Bush and his cabal buddies *officially* and legally act above the law? Why don't you be honest and come out with this statement: "Let's get-it-the-bleep-over with, for crying-out-loud. It's a war, you know." It is alleged conservative like you who remind me of what Franklin said about people who seek security at the cost of liberty deserve neither security nor liberty.

Re:oboy

Yeah that's helpful.

deserve neither security nor liberty

Only a minority of the nation is willing to folllow Bush over a cliff into his monarchy, Most people are wise enough to recongnize the validity of what you say. Your paraphrase of Franklin -- people who seek security at the cost of liberty deserve neither security nor liberty--is what most patriotic resident of the U.S.A. believe. Thank you for reminding us.

Re:oboy

Jamie Gorlick a Deptuy in the Clinton AGO said:

[T]he Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.

A warrantless wiretap was used against Aldrich Ames, a Russian Spy in 1993.

Carter, not Clinton but Carter signed Executive Order 12139 that states in part "...Attorney General
is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign
intelligence information without a court order..."

So if it was good enough for Carter and Clinton why are people screaming about it now?

I loved the 'more gentile era' phrase. I know it was a typo but it struck me as really funny. I know of some people who would like a more Gentile era.

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