January 17, 2007 1:08 PM PST

Attorney general: NSA spy program to be reformed

(continued from previous page)

One possibility is that the secret court has approved the entire surveillance program with a blanket order for future use--and did not require the Justice Department to provide case-by-case information about eavesdropping targets. Justice Department officials refused to confirm or deny that there was a blanket order, according to a Washington Post article.

Last year, former judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court urged Congress to enact a law forcing the president to use the court and expressed skepticism about the executive branch's constitutional authority to bypass it.

If a blanket order exists, attorneys from groups like the EFF or American Civil Liberties Union could argue that it amounts to an unconstitutional "general warrant" of the sort used by the British against the American colonists, which was banned in the Bill of Rights.

The ACLU said it will ask the court to release information on how the new surveillance orders work. "The legality of this unprecedented surveillance program should not be decided by a secret court in one-sided proceedings," said ACLU attorney Ann Beeson. "And without a court order that prohibits warrantless wiretapping, Americans can't be sure that their private calls and e-mails are safe from unchecked government intrusion."

On January 31, the 6th Circuit is scheduled to hear the Bush administration's appeal of a case brought by the ACLU in which a trial judge declared the NSA program to be unconstitutional. The Justice Department could use Gonzales' announcement to argue the case is "moot" and should be dismissed without further proceedings.

But White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday that the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the avalanche of lawsuits. "No, no, no, no, no. No. No," Snow said. "As a matter of fact, it may be interesting to see how it plays out in federal courts, but no, this is not a response." (Gonzales' letter alluded to discussions with the FISA court beginning in early 2005.)

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the secret court to authorize telephone surveillance, Internet monitoring, and even physical "black bag jobs." It was amended by the 2001 Patriot Act to allow surveillance for terrorism-related offenses, defined as violent acts that appear to be intended "to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" or "to influence the policy of a government by intimidation."

In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that "the judge's order announced today needs to be reviewed thoroughly." Pelosi earlier had called for hearings on the topic.

Another open question is whether Gonzales' letter, which talks about only the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" that Bush has publicly discussed, is meant to sweep in other eavesdropping or Internet monitoring programs that are even more highly classified.

Documents that came to light in the EFF case against AT&T suggest that the telecommunications company has opened its data network to the federal government far more than Bush or his allies have ever acknowledged publicly. One declaration (PDF) in the case says that AT&T has created a facility "well suited to process huge volumes of data, including user content, in real time. It is thus well suited to the capture and analysis of large volumes of data for purposes of surveillance."

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14 comments

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Checks and balances?
Quote: "The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses."

How does a secret court closed to the public address the checks and balances issue?
Posted by SiouxsieCat (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Checks and Balances Aren't Necessarily Public
Checks and balances aren't necessarily public info. Bringing the FISA court in brings in another branch of government, and brings it within the letter of the law as written by congress. That's checks and balances.

I was very upset when I heard the administration was using illegal (IMHO) surveillance techniques. I believe that allowing FISA to review the program brings it within the scope of the law and the U.S. constitution. And I wonder why the administration put up the fight to begin with.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
RE: NSA SPYING PROGRAM
Back in the old days a citizen would be surprised about what the NSA knows about us.

If a NSA brought in a 16 year old muslim gril for questioning She could easily be a smart ass.

NSA: DUDE Lisa We know all about you.
LISA: Yeah so I put all my info on Myspace anyway.

NSA is so owned!
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ooohhh... I Feel Better.
Let me get this straight...

A SECRET court-system, which has already been ABUSED... will SECRETLY over-see an ILLEGAL wiretapping program... against American-citizens... for an administration which has already, flatly, stated that, "...it is ABOVE THE LAW" where ANY allegations of "Anti-American activities", are concerned.

Yeah, big difference. So, I guess they finally decided that simply rewriting the LAWS, after being caught COMMITTING ILLEGAL-ACTS... just wont cut it?

Thank God the SECRET paper-work will, now, be kept straight. Oh well... I guess Ill just keep posting my REVULSION to this ongoing, OBSCENE MUTILATION of American-Freedom, until I am SECRETLY-ARRESTED, and SECRETLY TRIED, using SECRET-EVIDENCE (possibly obtained using SECRET-TORTURE in SECRET-PRISONS) for violating SECRET-LAWS.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The question is...
The question is, will they tell you that you are in prison? I would think that you would not have the security clearance to know.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Reality check...
Okay - check and balances refers to relationship between the executive/legislative/judicial branches of the govt., not the policies instituted by those agencies.

This is NOT a domestic spying program - it monitors the communications of foreign terrorists, and can conceivably involve US citizens IF they are in communication with terrorists. Why are we extending the protections of the constitution to foreign terrorists and those who are in league with them?
Posted by blish (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reality check...
Okay - check and balances refers to relationship between the executive/legislative/judicial branches of the govt., not the policies instituted by those agencies.

This is NOT a domestic spying program - it monitors the communications of foreign terrorists, and can conceivably involve US citizens IF they are in communication with terrorists. Why are we extending the protections of the constitution to foreign terrorists and those who are in league with them?
Posted by blish (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
True reality check....
It's a major leap to suggest that the only people affected are terrorists and those "in league with them." If you step back and watch, you will see it goes farther than that.

Besides, what about the old idea of people being "innocent until proven guilty?" Without that, all you have to do is say that someone is a terrorist and their freedoms are gone!
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
Clueless
You're right about checks and balances, but the rest of your
assertions are missing a basis in reaility. For one, the program
ONLY and ALWAYS involves communications of US citizens. That's
it's whole point.
Posted by Mark Greene (163 comments )
Link Flag
NSA need to Spy on the Attorney General
Attorney General Sold our Country safety and Government To Mexico When Border Patrol Goes to Jail Arm Men makes our National Guard runs in Fear and Jobs and Social Security Given With out Respect of our LAWS.
Posted by cohaver (189 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What?
Between the odd capitaliztion, poor grammar, and run-on sentence structure I have no clue what you just said!
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
I like your title...
though the content leaves a bit to be desired...

Anyway, Gonzales is determined to undermine the Constitution and
the Congress. What could be more anti-American than that?
Posted by Mark Greene (163 comments )
Reply Link Flag
don't let them get away with this!
Please people, stay alert to what is going on here.

This program has been found to be unconstitutional and illegal.
Period. Congress is finally starting to look into finding someone
culpable for this mess and suddenly the true enemies of America
are claiming to reform it so the point is moot?

Hello?

Please, for the love of all that is good and pure in our great
beloved nation, IMPEACH THE SON OF A BUSH NOW! Don't forget
to take the VP with him though!

It's not like this has no precident, they're pulling the same trash
with all the "enemy combatants" they have arrested and tortured
without any evidence or proof of anything improper.

If there is anything more anti-American than this administration,
I haven't seen it.
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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