Sunday, August 26, 2007

NYT: The Spy Chief Speaks NYT: The Spy Chief Speaks

NYT: The Spy Chief Speaks provides the same sort of comic relief as the paper has for the last decade or so, as it lives in its own BDS reality. It starts off with:
After more than a year and a half of administration stonewalling on President Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping, it was nice to see Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, finally unburden himself in a newspaper interview.
Of course, there was never a finding by a court of illegality... and the President's Article II powers haven't even been litigated here.
Take, for example, his disclosure that the government has eavesdropped without warrants on thousands of telephone calls in which one party was outside the United States. He said the government got warrants to continue spying on the person in the United States only “100 or less” times.
This is what was actually said:
And If a foreign bad guy is calling into the United States, if there's a need to have a warrant, for the person in the United States, you just get a warrant. And so if a terrorist calls in and it's another terrorist, I think the American public would want us to do surveillance of that U.S. person in this case. So we would just get a warrant and do that. It's a manageable thing. On the U.S. persons side it's 100 or less. And then the foreign side, it's in the thousands. Now there's a sense that we're doing massive data mining. In fact, what we're doing is surgical. A telephone number is surgical. So, if you know what number, you can select it out. So that's, we've got a lot of territory to make up with people believing that we're doing things we're not doing.
I read that to mean that when a U.S. person is involved, a warrant is, and always has been, acquired.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to intercept communications between people in the United States and people abroad without a warrant. That is a violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA.
Maybe, and maybe not. Besides, most of what was being intercepted was purely foreign.
Now we know the law was broken thousands of times. In 100 or so cases, the unlawfully intercepted calls led agents to believe that the person in the United States was a bad actor (Mr. McConnell implied, sort of, that they were terrorists), and the government’s lawyers obtained a warrant. We are still looking for that loophole in the Fourth Amendment.
Obviously, from the quote of McConnell, this conclusion was invented with little regard to reality. And as for the 4th Amdt? That is just silly. It only prevents unreasonable searches, and the U.S. has intercepted international communications during every war since electronic communications became commonplace. No court of final and competent jurisdiction has ever said that international calls with declared enemies of this country have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Besides, even if they did (and they don't), the NSA TSP surveillance of such would still not be unreasonable, given the reality of the threat, and that the interceptions are not being used in criminal prosecutions.

The remainder of the article is more of the same, mischaracterizations of the law and what McConnell said, all pandering to a BDS unreality that bears little if any relationship to what is actually happening.


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