Thanks to a rush-job from Congress, and some help from a couple of dozen craven Dem lawmakers, the president signed into law yesterday a new bill that offers him broad to surveillance powers, including the ability to eavesdrop on American citizens’ international communications without a warrant.
How bad is the new law? Details are a little sketchy — not surprising, given the classified subject matter — but it appears all the illegal activities the administration was engaged in have now been made legal.
Now that Congress has handed over the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the standard of probable cause as if they were mere wisps of nothingness that weren’t hard won from Runnymede through to the American Revolution and beyond, I have to wonder what has become of the fourth amendment in all of this mess? And, worse, whether Congressional leadership on either side of the aisle cares beyond getting the legislation out of the way so they can head out for vacation?
Marty Lederman has put together an exceptional series of expository links on the FISA legislation — bless him for it, because it is all I can do to get past furious this morning. The question I keep asking staffers and strategists: what in the hell were you thinking? And the “this is a difficult situation” response that I keep getting? Not. Good. Enough.
Getting the take on all of this? The words "sold out" haven't yet been uttered, but when you're reduced to citing Runnymede, well, you've pretty much said them anyway.
The good news is that we have six months to slap some sense into Congress. And, perhaps more to the point, at the end of those six months the NSA will have had six years to point us to one good thing that has come out of the program (besides the amusing spectacle of FBI agents calling Pizza Hut). Very little information on the NSA Program's successes, failures, and abuses has come out thusfar; and indeed it may be less likely that more comes out in the future: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports tonight that the administration has raided the home of a former DOJ lawyer, Thomas Tamm, seizing his and his kids' computers, on suspicion that he was involved in leaking the program's existence to the media. Now that Congress is out of the oversight picture, I suppose it's time to kill the messengers and thereby get the media out of it too.
BTW, the point made initially is one to remember. It is a 6 month time-frame we're talking about here, despite the hysterics it has produced among some on the left. Certainly a time-frame in which to assess what is or isn't working and what is or isn't feasible Constitutionally. But shhhhh. Don't tell anyone. It will cut down on the entertainment value this meltdown is producing.
Congress has failed. This is no easy thing for me to say as I fully admit being at least a little bit shill-like for my party, but to express the indignation that I have in the past over the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program while Republicans were in charge, and then turn a blind eye when the Democrats gain power; that would be hypocrisy.
Yeah it would, and congrats for not being one. Kevin Drum, however, really issues the proper reminder to both sides about issues such as this. Speaking of the bill's passage he says:
So that's that. The government is now legally allowed to monitor all your calls overseas with only the most minimal oversight. But don't worry. I'm sure they'll never misuse this power. They never have before, have they?
That never happens.
Oh and just to put the cherry on top of this beautiful sundae, the Dems are bragging about the passage of the bill:
After months of being flogged for accomplishing little, Democrats who control Congress headed into a summer recess having passed several high-profile bills from raising the minimum wage to bolstering U.S. security and expanding children's health care.
And, perhaps more to the point, at the end of those six months the NSA will have had six years to point us to one good thing that has come out of the program (besides the amusing spectacle of FBI agents calling Pizza Hut).
In a July 31, 2007 interview with Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto, Rep. Boehner disclosed an aspect of a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s decision regarding warrantless wiretapping, stating:
There’s been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States.
By telling a reporter that a FISA court has restricted the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas, Rep. Boehner appears to have transmitted information relating to the national defense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793(d).
Funny I recall reading about the FISA court stuff about a week earlier, at WSJ I think.
I even commented on 28 July, three days before Rep. Boehner, on a few blogs that ...
Currently, there are some FISA judges that consider any call that is routed through the US to be a "domestic" phone call, even if it is between two al Qeada members in the UK and Indonesia. So long as it passes through phone equipment in territorial USA, they consider it "domestic" and under the supervision of FISA.
Even AP seems to be spilling the beans on 30 July ...
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. The Bush administration believes the FISA court now must approve such spying because many conversations and contacts taking place overseas are routed through U.S.-based communication carriers, satellites or Internet providers.
This is actually what the democrats would have voted for anyway, it’s just that now they can blame Bush however they want for this. "Bush tricked congress into voting for this."
If you want to create a Fortress America and fight terrorists inside our borders instead of outside (Iraq or wherever), this is exactly how you do it. Bugging the phones of citizens, digging into their bank accounts, and cameras on every street corner. It’s a leftist utopia.
How bad is the new law? Details are a little sketchy — not surprising, given the classified subject matter...
Earth to Kooky Liars: no part of the United States Code is classified. The old version of FISA is publicly available, and the new one is too. Just because you are too lazy to look it up before ranting and raving about it, that doesn’t mean it is sketchy.