Bush Vindicated on Terror Surveillance

The Democratically controlled House passed reasonable rules to update the terrorist surveillance program. It wisely authorizes government eavesdropping on e-mail messages and telephone calls originating overseas but routed through the United States.

The President brought the program under FISA in January. Under antiquated rules, this reduced our effectiveness in anticipating terror attacks. Fortunately, the House has seen the need to bring the program into the 21st Century.

Dems on the other side are feeling bad about this. They recall that the Democrats control the House and that nothing can pass the House if all the Dems do not want it to pass, but they still hang onto the fiction that somehow Republicans made the virtuous Dems fall down.

The House did the right thing to protect our country while protecting our liberties. The Dems that broke with their party on this could have had a combination of only two motivations.

1) They voted their convictions. They believe as I do that these undated rules protect our country and provide sufficient safeguards for our liberties. AND/OR (2) They understand that a majority of their constituents back home support an updated terrorist surveillance programs and they believe in the will or the people, or at least fear it.

In either case, the Democratically controlled House did the right thing and in the process vindicated President Bush on this crucial issue. Can we count this as a success of the Democratic Congress? After all, they do not have that many accomplishments to count and probably cannot afford to throw back even a fish that Pelsoi thinks is unattractive.

Please excuse me if I enjoy the irony.

Posted by Jack at August 5, 2007 5:22 PM
Comment #228451

Jack, I’d like to see you actually discuss what the Congress passed. Like many news reports, your article doesn’t even address the disturbing issue. I suspect most Americans don’t understand, either. At any rate, your side won, and the country lost. Laugh it up.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 5, 2007 6:12 PM
Comment #228454
Aug. 13, 2007 issue - The controversy over President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of FBI agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)β€”the supersecret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets. The agents seized Tamm’s desktop computer, two of his children’s laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media.
A veteran federal prosecutor who left DOJ last year, Tamm worked at OIPR during a critical period in 2004 when senior Justice officials first strongly objected to the surveillance program. Those protests led to a crisis that March when, according to recent Senate testimony, then A.G. John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others threatened to resign, prompting Bush to scale the program back. Tamm, said one of the legal sources, had shared concerns about he program’s legality, but it was unclear whether he actively participated in the internal DOJ protest.


“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever.”
— George Orwell, ‘1984’

Posted by: Adrienne at August 5, 2007 7:20 PM
Comment #228456

It is sad that you can find such happiness in the erosion of our civil liberties Jack. While I do not foresee any immediate threat to my rights, there is that underlying notion that we have taken a step backwards. Only fools trust those who govern to do the right thing all the time. As we all know power corrupts and this legislation adds another insulating layer between those who decide and those of us who can only voice our opinions. I truly hoped that the dem congress would have more of a spine than they are so far exhibiting. But as time goes on it is becoming apparent that the people of this country no longer have much say in the ways of government. If this legislation holds beyond the six months it is almost a sure thing that most of us will eventually know someone who will become an innocent victim of this irresponsible policy. And to be honest Jack, Bush was not vindicated. He was merely put on hold by a lazy congress which is to chicken sh-t to deal with what would have been a good old republican weak on terror smear campaign during their month off. And God forbid they should have to miss a bit of their summer vacation in the interest of national policy. While you gloat and revel in your happiness over this poor legislation the rest of us truly concerned citizens will be wondering what it is going to take to institute responsible government answerable to the people.

Posted by: RickIL at August 5, 2007 8:12 PM
Comment #228457

I can see, Adrienne, that you think those who leak top-secret, classified information should not be investigated or prosecuted.

Oh, what was your position on the Scooter Libby / Valerie Plame (so-called) CIA outing again?


Posted by: JD at August 5, 2007 8:14 PM
Comment #228462


The one thing that hasn’t been brought and discussed in this matter is that virtually every call, and every e-mail, worldwide, from anywhere to anywhere, is routed through the United States.
The equipment that does this routing seeks the path of least resistance, and because American equipment is much faster than most of the rest of the world’s, it IS the path of least resistance.

Me, I’m just hoping that the computer program that listens has less bugs than say, Windows XP.

Posted by: Rocky at August 5, 2007 9:02 PM
Comment #228463

It’s always sobering to see Republicans rooting for their team over any semblance of movement towards rational management.

Posted by: Scott at August 5, 2007 9:04 PM
Comment #228464

This is a victory for those who don’t want to be questioned about what’s best for this country. Short-lived, I hope.

Has it occured to you that normal surveillance methods could have caught the hijackers, that a number of these men were under surveillance, already? The biggest problem was that people didn’t share information.

The dubious nature of the constitutional provenance of this information makes it harder to share, because those seeking to make criminal cases don’t want to contaminate their cases with information that can be thrown out as improperly gathered.

Tell me how exactly warrants get in the way of putting surveillance on the people we want to catch.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 5, 2007 9:06 PM
Comment #228466

Here is the legislation amending FISA.

In order to decode it, here is FISA before amendment. This version of FISA will probably be updated soon to incorporate the amendment.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 5, 2007 9:25 PM
Comment #228468

Ok, the amendment link is already dead. Here is how to find the legislation. Go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and in the first field, search for “Protect America Act.” Click on the version of the bill passed by the Senate. To find FISA itself, go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode50/usc_sup_01_50_10_36.html.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 5, 2007 9:36 PM
Comment #228470

I guess I don’t understand how Jack thinks anymore. Bush won a political argument (through demagoguery again). How does this win vindicate him? How does having rolled over some legislators prove that he was right to try to roll them over?

It doesn’t.

But, it seems that Jack has too strongly internalized the idea that the winner writes the history - he already thinks that political victory proves the correctness of the policy.

How sad.

The House did the right thing to protect our country while protecting our liberties.

Yet again, you buy both sides of this argument when there is not reason whatsoever to believe even one side of it.


Posted by: LawnBoy at August 5, 2007 9:57 PM
Comment #228472

“I can see, Adrienne, that you think those who leak top-secret, classified information should not be investigated or prosecuted.”

Depends on the situation, of course. I think that when leakers and whisleblowers have leaked information in order to apprise the American people of the clear illegality of the presidents actions, including the gathering of top-secret, classified info, they should actually be awarded with a solid-gold whistle, beautifully inscribed with the Great Seal of the United States.

“it seems that Jack has too strongly internalized the idea that the winner writes the history - he already thinks that political victory proves the correctness of the policy.”

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed β€” if all records told the same tale β€” then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”

— George Orwell, “1984”

Posted by: Adrienne at August 5, 2007 10:23 PM
Comment #228481

This whole controversy verges on the silly. We get lots of high sounding words decrying the loss of freedom. All that has happened is that the Democratically controlled congress has agreed with the Republican Administration that certain practices necessary in the war against terrorism are indeed necessary and legal.

I do not fear for my liberties. In fact, I believe this legislation enhances them by helping avoid an attack that would lead to calls for real restriction.

We have always listened to enemy communications during wartime. It is an odd technicality that would stop us from doing that because they are routed through the U.S. It is a great advantage and irony that many of our enemies come from technologically backward societies that depend on U.S. technologies to allow them to talk to each other. We should use this advantage against them.

Most European democracies have and have had much more ability to investigate and even detain suspects. America is a very free place and I agree that we should remain in the lead in liberties. But I cannot be very frightened by the prospect of being more like the UK or the Netherlands in terms of specific law enforcement techniques that can be used against terrorists.

Many of my blogmates are throwing around the idea that the founding fathers intended to avoid things like this terror surveillance program. I think they would have laughed about this. One of Franklin’s most important jobs was to gather intelligence. Washington intercepted correspondence all the time. He was able to stop the Benedict Arnold plot with an intercepted letter. Had Washington behaved as you guys want, we might have remained a British colony and we would have the more robust anti-terror measures already enjoyed by the UK.

I welcome this sensible update. I would be perfectly comfortable for a Democratic president to have this power, as they will. Democratic presidents DID have such power, BTW, at least until Carter. I cannot think of any ways that it impinges on any liberty I hold dear anymore than showing my drivers’ license to a cop at a traffic stop. It is a lot LESS intrusive than what the IRS demands of me (and you) every year.

So you guys should just move on. The chains will not soon be on your hands. The harsh truth is that nobody in the Federal government probably cares enough about you to investigate anyway. These sensible updates of the terror surviellence program are not threats to anybody except terrorists ad their coconspirators.

Re Bush being vindicated - I wrote that as a catchy title, but it is true. All the braying and carrying on about FISA was meaningless, since obviously the Democratically controlled congress agrees that the types of things he thought necessary are necessary. I know Bush haters have trouble with this sort of thing, but it makes a mockery of all that talk of impeachment etc.

Obviously, the Bush haters once again have nothing. This happens with monotonous regularity. I would think the Bush haters might learn from this steady experience of being left holding empty bags, but each time they find nothing they take it as evidence of something. I am puzzled by this, but have given up trying to understand it. Now I just think it is amusing.

Posted by: Jack at August 6, 2007 7:59 AM
Comment #228484

Once again, Jack, you don’t even mention the real issue of concern. No one has any problems with spying on foreigners. The problem is wiretapping Americans without a warrant. Further, the amendment makes it much easier to justify wiretapping for other purposes than acquiring foreign intelligence. Instead of that rationale being the sole purpose, now the test is that a “significant” (whatever that means) rationale is to acquire foreign intelligence. You claim that this is necessary to fight terrorists, yet if you read FISA and the new amendment, you will see that foreign intelligence encompasses much, much more than information needed to fight terrorism. Indeed, anything that could affect foreign affairs in any way is an open target.

Your justification, Jack, is that all this is ok if it prevents a terrorist act. That is the same rationale used to justify all sorts of intrusions upon the Fourth Amendment. Why should we be secure in our homes? Surely we could catch more violent criminals if we suspended the right to be secure in our homes. Why should communications between two people in the United States be secure without a warrant? Surely we could catch lots of criminals if all communications were captured and datamined. What other Consitutional protections are you willing to give up? Those Miranda rights are damn quaint, no? Your second justification is that most of us are too insignificant to attract the government’s attention. Do I need to point out how juvenile that defense is? Who cares about their neighbors or fellow Americans as long as the government doesn’t spy on me?

Jack, the fact that you continually gloss over the real issue in your articles and comments speaks volumes.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 6, 2007 9:21 AM
Comment #228485


And where, exactly, does the newly amended FISA say that he can wiretap without warrants indefinitely? It gives him the same period for warrantless wiretaps that the old FISA did, one year, and with the same restriction that the AG must submit a sworn statement that the surveillance meets certain criteria. Curiously, the new FISA adds one criteria to the list which was never present in the old FISA: he must swear the acquisition of foreign intelligence information in this manner does not constitute electronic surveillance. Given that all wiretapping is by definition electronic surveillance, I’m having a very hard time seeing how this amendment enhances our ability to listen in on foreign calls routed through the US. (Which is something that FISA already provided for, as long as there was no reason to believe a US person would be party to the call, which is essentially the same restriction placed by the wording “Persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States”.) Have you actually read the “>substance of the bill, as well as the , to see exactly what was changed by this amendment? Don’t just believe your party’s hype about what it does, look for yourself.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 6, 2007 9:27 AM
Comment #228486

Sorry, I seem to have messed up the links, that was supposed to say:

Have you actually read the substance of the bill, as well as the previous text of FISA, to see exactly what was changed by this amendment? Don’t just believe your party’s hype about what it does, look for yourself.

And actually, I stand corrected on one matter… apparently (though somewhat bizarrely), electronic surveillance under FISA is legally defined as surveillance that involves US persons, so as strange as it may sound in common parlance adding in that passage appears to be a shorthand for saying that the surveillance does not involve:

“(1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;
(2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States, but does not include the acquisition of those communications of computer trespassers that would be permissible under section 2511 (2)(i) of title 18;
(3) the intentional acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes, and if both the sender and all intended recipients are located within the United States; or
(4) the installation or use of an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device in the United States for monitoring to acquire information, other than from a wire or radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.”

Still, none of this allows the president to continue warrantless wiretapping indefinitely, or to engage in wiretapping of US citizens who call or are called by suspected terrorists overseas. So where is the vindication? The issue was never about wiretapping foreign calls that went through the US, that’s just a straw man that has been introduced recently.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 6, 2007 9:33 AM
Comment #228487


What you point out about “electronic surveillance” gave me lots of pause, too. I believe (and on this I am not certain, but am still researching) what has happened is that the new language makes it easier to acquire communications of a U.S. person as long as the wiretapping target is not a U.S. person. In other words, the government may acquire without a warrant foreign intelligence (which, btw, includes virtually anything of interest to the United States — see the definition of “foreign intelligence” in the definitions section of FISA) even if one party is a U.S person.

Now, I admit I’m still learning about this. If the amendment simply adds material to FISA, then the protections in FISA whereby the attorney general (but not the national security director?) must certify that “there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party” still holds? Things will become clearer once we see how the amendment is actually folded into FISA, I guess.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 6, 2007 9:56 AM
Comment #228489


Actually, I don’t think it does make it possible to acquire such intelligence if one of the parties is a US Person located in the US, because the very first thing the AG must certify according to the new amendment is:

“there are reasonable procedures in place for determining that the acquisition of foreign intelligence information under this section concerns persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, and such procedures will be subject to review of the Court pursuant to section 105C of this Act;”

Since the text refers to persons, not just “a person”, it would appear to be referring to both parties to a communication. Then again, the language is much more vague than the original FISA, so it’s hard to tell. It seems to have been designed to allow broad interpretation rather than getting down to specifics.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 6, 2007 10:05 AM
Comment #228494


authorizes government eavesdropping on e-mail messages and telephone calls originating overseas but routed through the United States.

As I understand the new legislation, it appears that only FOREIGN routed calls are covered. That is to say only those calls starting overseas.

I may be wrong, but if I remember correctly, the argument was about the personal freedom of AMERICAN citizens having their phones tapped. As in
phone calls and e-mails originating within the US Boundaries

It is this issue that has upset most American citizens.

Granted most calls are routed through the US anyway, but I still see this as a major difference.

I can not support wire-tapping on AMERICAN citizens, because that would definitely erode my freedoms as I read them, and believe they are interpreted in the (our-AMERICAN) Constitution.

If however, one believes our constitution does not apply to FOREIGNERS, then I have no problem with ease-dropping on FOREIGN calls into the US.

Am I correct in my understanding of the difference between what the President Bush authorized and what the new legislation states?

Posted by: Linda H. at August 6, 2007 12:20 PM
Comment #228501
I do not fear for my liberties. In fact, I believe this legislation enhances them

Yikes! That’s some of the best Orwellian writing I’ve seen here ever. To say that removing some of your liberties enhances your liberties… That’s just nuts!

Anyone who believes that kind of craziness must also believe that cutting tax revenues really increases tax revenues… Oh wait, you believe that too, don’t you.

Bush Vindicated on Terror Surveillance

Jack, Bush just got a six month repreive while Congress hammers out a Constitutional method of gathering foreign intelligence while protecting American citizens. That’s all.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 6, 2007 1:01 PM
Comment #228507

Jack, your article factually incorrect. Was that an oversight, I hope. In the article you state “It wisely authorizes government eavesdropping on e-mail messages and telephone calls originating overseas but routed through the United States.”

But, of course, the bill authorizes far more than that. Are you trying to whitewash the power and potential of this bill? Jarendehl correctly discusses the broad scope of this bill, authorized but, to be revisited by Congress in 6 months.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 1:34 PM
Comment #228509

Have I totally lost it, or does this imply that, yes, Bush’s previous actions did in fact break the current law, that this law changes?

And are we to believe that the current AG will indeed tell the truth? After he testified to a congressional committee that no offenses occurred with the program as run, and then had to retract that because they had occurred, as testified to by other witnesses?

Jack may be fine with this, but there are those of us who still have some problems with this whole thing.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 6, 2007 1:43 PM
Comment #228510

Here is another “interpretation”….
Still clear as mud…

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 6, 2007 2:02 PM
Comment #228520

Jarendehl wrote: “It seems to have been designed to allow broad interpretation rather than getting down to specifics.”

No kidding. Let us not forget this quote “there are reasonable procedures in place for determining that the acquisition of foreign intelligence information under this section concerns persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, and such procedures will be subject to review of the Court pursuant to section 105C of this Act;”

is the same predicate used to defend the invasion of Iraq. They reasonably believed there were WMD. They reasonably believed Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Queda. I can reasonable believe anything I damn well wish - I only have to invent a reason for believing it. So if the power to act against persons only requires one to invent reason to believe what they want to believe, individual and personal liberty and privacy in this country is worth what it is in Russia or China, Iran or Syria.

This is just another example of the Bush administration stooping to the level of their adversaries, becoming like them to fight them. It is a very sad and dishonorable page in America’s history, that we have become like our adversaries and allowed our government to become adversary to our Constitution and citizen’s protections under it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 3:48 PM
Comment #228524


It’s more than that. The phrasing used requires them to swear that reasonable procedures are in place… NOT that these procedures have been adhered to. And the court’s role does not cover making sure they are adhered to, their only role now is in ensuring that the government was not “clearly erronious” in determining that their actions do not constitute “electronic surveillance”, as previously defined in this thread. Apparently if they are erroneous, but in a way that is less clear, that doesn’t fall under the court’s purview.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 6, 2007 4:14 PM
Comment #228525

I really don’t know much about the legisation that was recently passed by the House. I do know that many in the house were reluctant to give the bush administration additional powers because this group in the executive branch have show themselves to be so inept.
Here in Portland, the federal government has just paid out a couple of million to an attorney, Brandon Mayfield, as a result of misidentification of a finger print. The FBI gave Mayfield the whole nine-yard treatment in its investigation: wire taps, physical survailance, sneak and peaks into his home. If one stops and thinks about the full implications of what happened to this man it is not much of a stretch that it (“it” being the crass and total violation of our civil liberties) could happen to you. Almost anyone could have circumstances that could prompt these intrusions. I often call people living in Germany, I own a large truck for my business in Tucson, Az., a city 90 miles from Nogales, Sonora on the Mexican Border, an area often promoted as a possible entry point for terrorists. I am arguing against increased survalience, I am against george “either you’re with us or against us” bush. Should I be worried that someone is going to enter my space for a “sneak and peak” or should I just be a good american and keep my mouth shut.

Posted by: charles ross at August 6, 2007 4:16 PM
Comment #228526

I want to thank Gerrold and Sandra for the links they provided. Upon reading the new legislation, I believe the following are some key passages.

`(1) there are reasonable procedures in place for determining that the acquisition of foreign intelligence information under this section concerns persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States…
`(2) the acquisition does not constitute electronic surveillance;
`(3) the acquisition involves obtaining the foreign intelligence information from or with the assistance of a communications service provider, custodian, or other person…

First evidently, (2) it defines a specific type of electronic surveillance as not being electronic surveillance. This sidesteps other portions of FISA or any other legalities that may be involved. In (1), the term “reasonable” is very ambiguous and could lead to 4th amendment violations.

(b) A certification under subsection (a) is not required to identify the specific facilities, places, premises, or property at which the acquisition of foreign intelligence information will be directed.
This makes it harder to prosecute those that may have been involved with illegal wire-tapping. (3) & (b) protects the service providers and its’ employees from lawsuits. Of course if people refuse to cooperate with the surveillance, this legislation says they can be found with “Contempt of Court.”
Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence…The Attorney General shall transmit as soon as practicable under seal to the court established…and shall remain sealed unless the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the acquisition under section 105B.

This of removes effectively any oversight the FISA courts may have had. If the records are sealed, and no one has access to them, then no one that isn’t involved will know if any abuses are taking place. But as Adrienne’s link points out, if someone does leak that an abuse is taking place, they can be arrested.

Posted by: Cube at August 6, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #228529

Jarandhel, quite right. This legislation was drafted by the White House, and with the help of Republicans in Congress, the wiggle room necessary to avoid ever being held accountable was preserved in the bill’s passage.

Doesn’t say much for those Blue Dog Democrats and their oversight capacity, does it. Overlook capacity is more like it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 4:31 PM
Comment #228532


Right, individual cases apparently are not to be reviewed by the court, but only the procedures used.

I have to believe that if/when SCOTUS gets ahold of this, it won’t stand. If I’m wrong, then my country isn’t what I thought it was.

You know, given the broad definition of “foreign intelligence” contained in FISA, this essentially means that any Congressman calling any foreign leader may be monitored without warrant by the executive branch.

At any rate, the administration clearly believes that the amendment removes the privacy expectation Americans had communicating with someone overseas. What gets me is how cowardly the legislation is — instead of outright saying that Americans can be spied upon without a warrant, it instead creates wiggle room for that spying while at the same time appearing to offer protection.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 6, 2007 4:47 PM
Comment #228542

Thank you for all the interesting points and links.

We do have a difference in priorities. I do just do not have a problem with such data gathering and terrorist surviellence. I am sorry that I cannot build up much indignation about things that seem unlikely to affect any innocent Americans.

You guys have studied up on this. I have read your comments and I just finished watching the “Newshour” report re. It seems to me that this legislation is useful and harmless.

Posted by: Jack at August 6, 2007 7:20 PM
Comment #228543
I am sorry that I cannot build up much indignation about things that seem unlikely to affect any innocent Americans.

I, too, am sorry that you cannot build up indignation for the Executive Branch browbeating the Legislative into a rule change that means that the AG, not a court, gets to make decisions that deprive Americans of privacy rights. I’m sorry that you have no indignation for dismantling checks and balances. I’m sorry that you don’t have a problem with putting these important decisions in the hands of someone who has proven to be both incompetent and deceitful, even under oath.

Really, how partisan does one need to be not to find a problem with these things?

Posted by: LawnBoy at August 6, 2007 7:33 PM
Comment #228545


The Democrats control the House. The Democrats control the Senate. They seem eager to stick it to the President whenever they can. How could he browbeat them into doing anything?

Re power - I am putting the power into the hands of the President. That will be George Bush until January 2009. After that, it will be someone else. The President needs that power.

Posted by: Jack at August 6, 2007 7:57 PM
Comment #228611
How could he browbeat them into doing anything?

See the past week for your answer.

Posted by: LawnBoy at August 7, 2007 11:24 AM
Comment #228650

And Jack,

How can you have no indignation for a law that “allows the government to ‘listen to our conversations, read our e-mails, with no connection to terrorism, with no proof that anyone has ever done anything wrong’ β€” without judicial oversight.”

Under the new FISA law, the “sole authority” to authorize the warrantless surveillance of people is now granted to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

What a horrible, horrible law. I’m depressed that enough Democrats fell for the demagoguery of the Bush administration to allow this farce to pass.

Posted by: LawnBoy at August 7, 2007 3:20 PM
Comment #228679


If President Bush can still browbeat Dems, they must be worthless wimps.

A more likely explanation is that some Dems voted the way they did because they believed it was right; others voted as they did because they respected (or feared) the opinion of the folks back home. In either case, it is not a Bush browbeating.

I do not fear the updated law. We Americans have more rights to privacy than people in most European democracies (who are not oppressed, BTW) and a lot more than we did a generation ago (and we were not oppressed, BTW). Privacy is a good thing, but not an absolute value. We willingly trade privacy for convenience, fellowship and security. This is not a bad tradeoff.

Posted by: Jack at August 7, 2007 9:16 PM
Comment #228797

What will it take for you to say this isn’t good? Does there have to be another massive scandal, or some big supreme court decision for you to reconsider?

Or will you back everything this President’s wants regardless of what evidence piles up against it. You guys fault us because some of us really don’t like Bush, but it seems you guys love Bush as a leader unconditionally, and accept most to virtually all of what he says as gospel truth.

We do not need to start making big exceptions to this law, because a person’s freedom is founded on the security of their person, their property, and their communications from search and seizure by a government that hasn’t provided good justification for it. Without that, calling what we have freedom is worthless.

Moreover, though this may make it easier for the government to exercise power relating to security matters, it does not necessarily improve our actual security.

First, such powers, once given, with little oversight and broad authority, usually end up beings used for corrupt or spurious purposes. Secrets become a commodity and a fixation, hoarded, and attended too even in the presence of contradictory open-source information.

Second, the ability to look at anybody and everybody regardless of justification runs into a big problem of sorting out meaningful information from meaningless and one of attending to the right targets. Time and opportunities are limited, as are staff and resources. Total information awareness is mirage, not an oasis of knowledge.

The game is one of extracting the maximum of meaningful information from an array of sources sufficient for our purposes and manageable in it’s information flow.

Tell me: why is it that we have almost literally mounds of intercepted communications coming from our surveillance in the Middle East, and very few people doing translation on all that. Does it make any sense to devote so much effort to getting this information if we can’t understand it? This administration has to stop thinking in terms of of total information awareness, and start thinking in terms of optimum information comprehension.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 8, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #228839

Gosh, “Innocent Americans have nothing to fear”
Do you really believe that GARBAGE????
Oh yea
There are no innocent people in Jail
There have been ZERO innocent people released from Jail after 20 Years on Death Row due to wrongful persecution (note NOT Prosecution)
Everyone ever detained in Gitmo was guilty (even without a trial, without due process, gosh, cause the Gov’t said so, it musta been true!)
If everyone at Gitmo was guilty and were the “worst of the worst” — why were so many released???
Were they innocent (ooops there goes the Gov’t infallibility excuse) or
They were guilty but we let them loose????
Oooops there goes the Gov’t is fighting terror and protecting us arguement.

What you FAIL to realize is that regardless of YOUR OPINION about being INNOCENT — all it takes is for one of these GOONS to latch onto one of YOUR INNOCENT conversations and decide YOU are a threat.
it is THEIR OPINION about your ALLEGED innocence that counts — and the problem with all of this is that YOU never get a chance to rebutt or clear your name — you don’t even get to know WHY they THINK you are a terrorist — after all THEY are right and YOU are wrong — AFTER ALL You ARE a TERRORIST!! (You MUST BE cause the Gov’t said so and the Gov’t is NEVER WRONG — right Jack????)

After all the people who have shared their stories about how their lives were destroyed BY MISTAKE when the Gov’t came crashing down on them without ANYONE to check on them and MAKE SURE that there weren’t any errors.
THAT is the big problem Jack
To allow this sort of thing without oversight is to ASSUME that the people doing these things CANNOT MAKE MISTAKES.
You don’t even have to believe that these people are Bad or evil, you can believe that they believe they are doing the right thing, and are desperately trying to protect the citizens of the United States, all the while TROMPING all over INNOCENT Citizens!!!
And if we allow these kind of mistakes — that result in ANYONE’s loss of freedoms, — then it is NO DIFFERENT than if we lose to a terrorist attack
so it is a no win situation with this legislation
We lose liberties AND we STILL are not Guaranteed to be protected from Terrorist attack
We COULD repeal this immoral pile of garbage and restore our rights and liberties AND not be guaranteed to be protected from Terrorist attack
I prefer plan b above

Posted by: Russ at August 9, 2007 10:35 AM
Comment #229594

“If you knock down all the laws to get at the Devil and the Devil turns on you, What will you do?”

Richard Burton, as St. Thomas Moore in “A Man for All Seasons.”

Posted by: RGF at August 16, 2007 2:43 AM
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