Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Xymphora: Why No Warrants: Theory: Bush is monitoring ALL calls


Thanks to blogger Xymphora for seeking out a plausible rationale to answer the key question of why the Bush radicals went to such lengths to break the law when wiretaps -- on legitimate targets -- were so easy to obtain. If the anonymous informant, patcox2, on Democraticunderground.com is correct (see below), then Bush has authorized the blanket monitoring of all phone calls. (It’s hard to know exactly what this means and if such a thing can be true.I guess we're going to have to learn a lot more about Echelon.)

One question is: what does the NYT (and perhaps other media) know about the theory that the NSA is monitoring all phone calls? How surprised would we be to find that NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller are participating in a limited hangout, where part of the crime is admitted in order hide the greater sin.


What do people make of Xymphora's contention below that if Rove disapproves, the Times doesn't print?

If he’s right, then how much freedom would Suzlberger/Keller have to assign reporters to investigate an Echelon program in the US?


See Xymphora’s final link to get some mention in a Newsweek story of Bush summoning Sulzberger and Keller to the White House to press them not to publish their 12/16 domestic spying story.


Note also the tremendous effort the WH and their supporters are in the midst of conducting to pressure Arlen Spector not to hold hearings on the subject. How effective will Cheney be on this one?


Where's Hillary? Her silence, for a change, is deafening.


See below for the very good NYT editorial today on the part of the story that is now public information.


Blogger Xymphora wrote:
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Big Brother Bush
The answer to the mystery of the NSA snooping scandal - why did they break the law when it was so ludicrously easy to get FISA warrants? - appears to be developing: they weren't just wiretapping, they were data mining. They were using Echelon to 'Able Danger' the whole country (this is Poindexter's Total Information Awareness, which is supposedly dead, in action). The problem is that FISA was enacted prior to the current capability for data mining, and didn't anticipate how ubiquitous it could be. The reason they couldn't use FISA is that they would have had to obtain a FISA warrant for every person in the country. Data mining requires that you follow each link discovered by your snooping, and wouldn't work if it had to be subjected to FISA or the Constitution. The NYT article, now being spun as resisted by the Bush Administration (as if the NYT would publish anything without Rove's say-so), appears to itself be part of the spinning, a limited hang-out to cover up the bigger scandal.

Here's the first link in Xymphora's blog above. It's an anonymous note by patcox2 from DemocraticUnderground.com

The media must learn the difference between a wiretap and "Echelon."

URLhttp://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104x5639121#5639121 5639121,

Posted by patcox2 on Mon Dec-19-05 04:51 PM

No one is getting it. Liberals are talking in terms of "why couldn't he just go through FISA." Liberals are wasting their time arguing that Bush could easily have obtained FISA approval for what he was doing. Bush and his administration are purposely muddying the water by saying things like "we only listened to people who were talking to people with known al queda links."

In short, everyone is talking as if what the NSA does is just your typical, run of the mill law enforcement wiretap.

A typical law enforcement wiretap, the kind you can get a warrant for under FISA, allows the government to tap a person's phone, or even any phone that an identified subject might use, and listen to that person's conversations. That's what FISA authorizes, targeted wiretaps, constitutional wiretaps authorized by a constitutional warrant that identifies the specific target of the tap.

That's not what the NSA does. That's not what Bush was doing. FISA does not and cannot authorize what Bush was doing, because its unconstitutional from the get go.

FISA cannot authorize the blanket monitoring of all telephone calls, a'la Echelon.

That is what Bush was doing.

The media must learn the difference, because arguing about whether the "wiretaps" would have been authorized under FISA is missing the point, its not a wiretap program. Its the wholesale interception of all telephone communications.

Its indefensible. By muddying the water and engaging in complicated legal arguments, the media makes it look as if it is defensible, and supports the right wing meme of "the only people who care about this issue are law professors and scholars, not real Americans trying to protect against terrorist attacks" as Katie Couric put it.


December 20, 2005
The Fog of False Choices
After five years, we're used to President Bush throwing up false choices to defend his policies. Americans were told, after all, that there was a choice between invading Iraq and risking a terrorist nuclear attack. So it was not a surprise that Mr. Bush's Oval Office speech Sunday night and his news conference yesterday were thick with Orwellian constructions: the policy debate on Iraq is between those who support Mr. Bush and those who want to pull out right now, today; fighting terrorists in Iraq means we're not fighting them here.

But none of these phony choices were as absurd as the one Mr. Bush posed to justify his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law.

Mr. Bush said he thwarted terrorist plots by allowing the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international communications without a warrant. We don't know if that is true because the administration reverts to top-secret mode when pressed for details. But we can reach a conclusion about Mr. Bush's assertion that obeying a 27-year-old law prevents swift and decisive action in a high-tech era. It's a myth.

The 1978 law that regulates spying on Americans (remember Richard Nixon's enemies lists?) does require a warrant to conduct that sort of surveillance. It also created a special court that is capable of responding within hours to warrant requests. If that is not fast enough, the attorney general may authorize wiretaps and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.

Mr. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered a whole bag of logical pretzels yesterday to justify flouting this law. Most bizarre was the assertion that Congress authorized the surveillance of American citizens when it approved the use of "all necessary and appropriate force" by the United States military to punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or who aided or harbored the terrorists. This came as a surprise to lawmakers, who thought they were voting for the invasion of Afghanistan and the capture of Osama bin Laden.

This administration has a long record of expanding presidential powers in dangerous ways; the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" comes to mind. So assurances that surveillance targets are carefully selected with reasonable cause don't comfort. In a democracy ruled by laws, investigators identify suspects and prosecutors obtain warrants for searches by showing reasonable cause to a judge, who decides if legal tests were met.

Chillingly, this is not the only time we've heard of this administration using terrorism as an excuse to spy on Americans. NBC News recently discovered a Pentagon database of 1,500 "suspicious incidents" that included a Quaker meeting to plan an antiwar rally. And Eric Lichtblau and James Risen write in today's Times that F.B.I. counterterrorism squads have conducted numerous surveillance operations since Sept. 11, 2001, on groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group.

Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the power to spy on Americans. Fine, then Congress can just take it back.

Copyright 2005The New York Times Company


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