Can you hear me now?
January 17, 2007 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Illegal wiretaps to end.
posted by EarBucket (53 comments total)
Sweet. So we'll be arresting the criminals who were doing the illegal wiretaps before this, right?
posted by mullingitover at 5:23 PM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

A commendable step on the road to democracy and freedom in the USA.
posted by fire&wings at 5:25 PM on January 17, 2007

any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program

What about all the other programs? The ones at the FBI, CIA, Pentagon, etc? We have dozens now.
posted by amberglow at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

and the NSA, and DHS, etc...
posted by amberglow at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2007


The last time they pulled this shit, they just renamed the program and started a new super secret one.
posted by empath at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2007

What a relief! Now the illegal wiretaps will have to be approved by a secret court. America is saved!
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:29 PM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

Here's the letter from Gonzales.
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on January 17, 2007

Yeah, FISA has turned down the government's requests something like once.

[insert rubberstamp.gif here]
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:33 PM on January 17, 2007

so that's the NSA program only? or just one of the NSA programs?
posted by amberglow at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2007

all about FISA (from the eff)

and if you scroll down here at sourcewatch, you have a partial list of the agencies and programs spying on us
posted by amberglow at 5:38 PM on January 17, 2007

Hm, if the Chinese invade should we greet them as liberators?
posted by bukharin at 5:39 PM on January 17, 2007

so, the only question I got is who is going to ask Snow, "Why should we believe you?"
posted by edgeways at 5:50 PM on January 17, 2007

*snip, snip*

How's that look, Hydra darling? Too short?
posted by carsonb at 5:50 PM on January 17, 2007

The language the administration uses is always so condescending and wrong. Tony Snow today said that FISA has "made all the changes" that were necessary for the administration to be able to use it.

This is completely wrong. It isn't for the administration to decide what is or is not legal. As was said before - whether or not the program was successful is completely irrelevant. There are many things that the government, if it had unlimited power, could do to prevent terrorism. They would be highly effective. They would also be highly illegal. Such is the case here.
posted by odinsdream at 5:52 PM on January 17, 2007

Nothing to celebrate--there is no way to discern exactly what this new framework is between the administration and the FISA court because the only evidence describing it is Gonzales' letter, which is quite vague in a number of respects about exactly what has happened.

But ultimately, there are only two options -- (1) the administration is now complying fully and exclusively with FISA when eavesdropping, in which case all of its prior claims that it could not do so and still fight against The Terrorists are false, or (2) the administration has changed its eavesdropping program some, but it is still not fully complying with FISA, in which case nothing of significance has changed (at least on the lawbreaking issues) because the administration is still violating the law.

posted by amberglow at 5:53 PM on January 17, 2007

and from there: ...Gonzales' letter affirms, as one would expect, their belief that they were legally entitled to violate this law. That means (a) that they can violate it again at any future point when they want to, (b) they can violate other laws under the same theories, and (c) whatever other lawbreaking is already occurring as a result of those theories is not going to stop. ...
posted by amberglow at 5:54 PM on January 17, 2007

National Review: ...For the Bush administration to argue for years that this program, as operated, was critical to our national security and fell within the president's Constitutional authority, to then turnaround and surrender presidential authority this way is disgraceful. The administration is repudiating all the arguments it has made in testimony, legal briefs, and public statements. This goes to the heart of the White House's credibility. How can it cast away such a fundamental position of principle and law like this? ...
posted by amberglow at 5:58 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

amberglow writes "This goes to the heart of the White House's credibility. "

bwahahaha...since when did they have credibility? That's like saying "This will damage the worldwide admiration and respect for White House policies."
posted by mullingitover at 6:12 PM on January 17, 2007

(mulling--it's a rightwing site) : >
posted by amberglow at 6:14 PM on January 17, 2007

Illegal wiretaps to end.

Yeah, and if you believe that, I've got some Iraqi WMDs to sell you.
posted by Relay at 6:22 PM on January 17, 2007

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this authority has been given to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it always the FISC's job to approve of international wiretapping?

"Accordingly, under these circumstances, the President has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires," the attorney general wrote.

Translation : Now that I have to follow the law, I'm going to take my toys and go home.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:43 PM on January 17, 2007

Hm, if the Chinese invade should we greet them as liberators?

Well, the Chinese claim to have liberated the Tibetans, and here's how they treat them.
posted by homunculus at 6:44 PM on January 17, 2007

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it always the FISC's job to approve of international wiretapping?

That's absolutely correct. The administration continues to use rhetoric that would, if you didn't know any better, lead you to believe they are actually granting FISA some authority or power or right that it did not always have.
posted by odinsdream at 6:54 PM on January 17, 2007

Illegal wiretaps to end.*

* offer not valid in Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin or Wyoming.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 7:15 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Reading the article, it sounds to me more like "now that the FISC has given us blanket authority to wiretap anyone we suspect is 'al-Qaeda,' we'll be more than happy to operate under that authority."
posted by wierdo at 7:21 PM on January 17, 2007

homunculus writes "Well, the Chinese claim to have liberated the Tibetans, and here's how they treat them."

This inspired me to contact YouTube and beg them to implement comment ratings. The one that really got me was "Chinese people are fucking stupid looking tiny hobbits. They look so fucking dumb. I've never seen an attractive chink." That comment would look a lot better if I didn't see it.

posted by mullingitover at 7:38 PM on January 17, 2007

They are looking for cover to deflect the upcoming hearings. This fold came so fast that I shudder to think what they are trying so hard to avoid having revealed. We are seeing only the beginning. These guys are going down in flames. It will start out slow and end fast.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:04 PM on January 17, 2007

... Since these court orders are "innovative," "complex," and - Gonzales forgot to mention - totally secret, we have no way of knowing what they contain (yet). But my reading of the first paragraph of Gonzales' letter is that the Administration went to one hand-picked, friendly FISA judge (there are 11 of them on the court, and the government can ordinarily seek a surveillance warrant from any one it chooses), and asked for approval to carry out the NSA program in exactly the fashion they have been carrying it out thus far.

That is, the administration did not follow the normal, lawful procedure for a FISA warrant, which is to bring the Court evidence creating probable cause to suspect a surveillance target of involvement in terrorism, and get an order allowing surveillance of that particular suspect's communications. Rather, it appears possible from this letter that Gonzales asked for approval to carry out a program of surveillance against anyone the administration thinks is associated with al Qaeda or terrorism. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:15 PM on January 17, 2007

and there's something there about Sen. Leahy having been already scheduled to go to the floor to talk about it all tomorrow?
posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on January 17, 2007

Repressed people will always spy on their neighbors.
posted by Brian B. at 8:30 PM on January 17, 2007

Ah, yes, secret courts. The cornerstone of democracy.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2007

Bu$h needs to be impeached.
posted by chance at 9:16 PM on January 17, 2007

Ah, yes, secret courts. The cornerstone of democracy.

It seems appropriate to have a court concerned with intelligence operations to have some secrecy. More would be better. But having a court, any court, even a secret one, overseeing the executive branch beats letting the executive branch decide all on its lonesome who they can wiretap.

That the court has only turned down five requests (by one count) indicates that most of those requests were germane and well-crafted (by these folks, career government attorneys). Without even that scrutiny, who knows what the 'tappers were 'tapping. The entire point of the uproar over the TSP is that they did not want even that "rubberstamp" oversight, suggesting that they were doing things that FISC, in their view, might not approve. In other words, failing to meet minimal levels of probable cause (actually, it's a lower standard than that, even, but I forget what it's called). That is, they must show the court that they are investigating an "agent of a foreign power" (now including terrorist groups), and not just anyone they feel like.

The judges of the FISC, which has been around since 1978, are drawn from a constantly rotating pool of 1st District judges, and they issued a blistering critique of the Clinton and Bush administrations' abuses of FISA (all prior to the TSP bypass).
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on January 17, 2007

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

This Administration broke the law in the past.

This Administration lied to the public in the past.

Reform only comes through recognition of failure, whether through punishment or enlightenment. This Administration has shown no signs of facing up to their failures.

We can expect only more of the same from them.
posted by moonbiter at 3:29 AM on January 18, 2007

Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew that these same people who partake in illegal wiretapping were themselves being covertly watched? Yes….they may be required to justify (?) their actions; albeit in secret…and far away any from decent due process. If the Bush administration had proven track record as a trust worthy and honest form of government, then you could afford to give them the benefit of the doubt; in this case. However, the truth is they lie and they want the public to put their trust based upon….lies. As defenders of democracy they seem to utilizing activities that you would expect from tyrants.
posted by Prunedish at 3:48 AM on January 18, 2007

Outlawed, huh? All right, well all of you motherf*ckers are now on DOUBLE SECRET SURVEILLANCE.
posted by psmealey at 4:07 AM on January 18, 2007

Glenn Greenwald has a lot of articulate analysis on FISA/Bush (1, 2).
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2007

Lest you think this is a change in administration policy and respect for the law, Gonzales clarifies today:
Gonzales said federal judges are not "equipped to make decisions about" actions the president takes in the name of preserving national security. "A judge will never be in the position to know what is in the national security interest of the country."

"I try to imagine myself being a judge," Gonzales said. "What do I know about what is going on in Afghanistan or Guantanamo?"
posted by Nelson at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2007

Gonzales is pulling the hot-girl-with-the-violent-reprobate-boyfriend trick: "you just don't know him like I do".
posted by psmealey at 8:56 AM on January 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

FISA Announcement: You Don't Know What You Don't Know--... a day after the Attorney General announced that the Bush administration has decided to try to bring the NSA domestic spying program within the boundaries of U.S. law, he appears to have sucked information out of the air around the operation.

Did a court give a blanket OK to the program? Or did they approve surveillance against a single target, or group? How does the approval process work? How often does the NSA need to get approval? Who in Congress has been told, and how will they be kept informed? And -- is it really legal?

In a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon, Justice Department officials demonstrated how little information they're actually making available about what has or has not changed. ...

posted by amberglow at 9:27 AM on January 18, 2007

on Gonzales' "testimony" today before Congress: ... For any information the Senators want, Gonzales does not have it, but he will definitely endeavor to get it for them. When pointed out that he has made the same promises many times before and told them nothing, he assures them them he is working diligently to get it, but that it is a very complex matter, and they are entitled to it and will have it (sometimes he politely denies ever having promised it before but then says he will get it anyway). ...
posted by amberglow at 3:20 PM on January 18, 2007

(and from there: ...For Times watchers, this is the best part:
"Since the surveillance program was publicly disclosed in December 2005 by The New York Times…"
Omitting, of course, the fact that although the story was published in December 2005, Bryan Calame, the Times public editor, shows how the Times had the story before the 2004 election, but suppressed it. ...
posted by amberglow at 4:05 PM on January 18, 2007

Something > Nothing
posted by meta_eli at 6:39 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

...The FIS Court has been assisting in crafting the TSP and in working out new legal parameters to continue it in light of the NY Times blowing its cover. Clearly the FIS Court has established further guidelines to now make the TSP a permanent fixture of our national security and legal infrastructure. ...
posted by amberglow at 3:31 PM on January 19, 2007

... Indeed, the Justice Department has reportedly already gone to the Court of Appeals to request that the federal case finding the spying to be illegal, currently on appeal by the government, be "mooted," or ruled no longer at issue because of their new decision to operate within the law. No doubt similar arguments will be made to the House and Senate intelligence and justice committees.

Such efforts should be slapped down. ...

posted by amberglow at 3:37 PM on January 19, 2007

...That explains why the administration couldn't clear the program through the FISA system in the first place: FISA (and, uh, the Fourth Amendment) require individualized warrants. In a January 2006 press conference, President Bush explained, "I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work." So, if the surveillance program and the FISA were utterly incompatible a year ago—so incompatible, in fact, that the White House opted to break the law, rather than try to amend it—then how are things different today? ...
posted by amberglow at 5:17 PM on January 19, 2007

AT&T Ducks Accountability
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2007

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