December 17, 2005


I don't get the controversy over the latest from the sainted NYT that NSA is monitoring international communications which originate from the United States or are directed this way. None of the talking heads has identified what provision of the Constitution or laws of the United States is supposed to have been violated by these intercepts. News flash for all of you privacy junkies out there: you have no expectation of privacy in communications directed to, or coming from, foreign countries. Barely mentioned in all of this hysteria is any indication such intercepts were of wholly domestic communications which would bring FISA and wiretap statutes into play.

Yips! from Robbo:

Bias? What bias? Here's CNN's "Should the Government stop beating its wife?" on-line poll question on the matter today:

Should the government have been given the authority to spy on Americans without warrants after the 9/11attacks?

More Yips! from Robbo: Here's what Dubya had to say about the flap today -

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Emphasis mine. Translation: Nice going, Poindexter. Can you say "troop transport"?

Posted by LMC at December 17, 2005 10:12 AM | TrackBack

Keep in mind, from a technical perspective, every time you use a cell phone, you're broadcasting on FM...

Posted by: KMR at December 17, 2005 11:07 AM

Right. I just assume that someone is listening in. I couldn't care less that Big Brother is watching. If you abide by the law, then you have no worries.

Posted by: jen at December 17, 2005 11:34 AM

Jen-exactly. As my girls often state: "If I ain't misbehavin' then I have no fear!"

Posted by: Rae at December 17, 2005 02:08 PM

Unrelated, but how 'bout them Pats, Robbo?

Posted by: at December 17, 2005 05:23 PM

Sorry, me again. This really doesn't bother you all? The only way to protect our liberties is to keep our government as transparent as possible. Rae, there was a German citizen imprisoned by the US in one of those extraordinary renditions. Totally innocent. 5 months in a secret foreign prison. He wasn't misbehaving and yet there he was. A Dartmouth student just got interviewed by DHS agents for requesting the Little Red Book (quote book from Mao) from his library. A little too 1984 for me.
Oh and Rob, how 'bout those Pats? >:P

Posted by: LB Buddy at December 17, 2005 08:37 PM

Unfortunately, the media's spin has the real world effect of priming the american people to actually acquiesce to real liberty threatening limits on our rights. If anybody has any sort of memory, they should recall a little thing called ECHELON. It's quite likely that as a practical matter, all that the NSA did was to change their filters so that "needs human attention" flag always lit off when the particular target called.

Now, is changing a flag from computer analyze to human analyze a civil liberties threat? The NY Times wants you to think so.

The problem is that the State is not your friend. It never has been. The machinery of repression is very similar to the machinery needed to prosecute a worldwide 4GW. So we have a dilemma.

We need to win this war and it's likely to be a long one. We have to avoid crying wolf. We have to avoid being desensitized by false calls to arms. We have to act out against real efforts to assemble a durable repressive machinery. The NY Times is not being helpful.

The truth is that past administrations have used their powers against the political enemies of the President. Nixon comes to mind on this, Clinton too. There's a special prosecutor's report that Democrats are working very hard to ensure that its text never sees the light of day on this very subject (the Cisneros investigation done by special prosecutor Barrett).

Just because you're innocent doesn't protect you from an unethical White House. We need to maintain defenses in depth against such abuse.

Posted by: TM Lutas at December 17, 2005 11:15 PM

"Barely mentioned in all of this hysteria is any indication such intercepts were of wholly domestic communications which would bring FISA and wiretap statutes into play."

What makes you think that FISA only comes into play when its wholly domestic?

Posted by: actus at December 18, 2005 12:11 AM

Check out a funny site dedicated to the absurdity and satire nature of saying "It's All George Bush's Fault!"

Notta Libb

Posted by: Notta Libb at December 18, 2005 09:00 AM


Say it preacher! This is something that should concern Rep. and Dems. Ironically, some of the best gov monitoring software is probably coming from companies that first contracted to China...

Posted by: LB Buddy at December 18, 2005 09:49 AM

1. I look forward to the leaker of this story being as aggresively investigated and prosecuted under the Valerie Plame standard;

B. I enjoyed the timing of the story to coincide with the successful election in Iraq and the meeting of the parliament in Afghanistan;

III. The Count of Monte Cristo fan in me has no juice at all with the "if you're innocent you have nothing to worry about" line of thought. i don't trust the state, never have, never will.

iv. If only we had listened to Dan Brown and his Digital Fortress call to arms we could have made this a truly better peyton manning free world.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at December 19, 2005 09:47 AM