« | »

NYT: Drop In Surveillance Spurred Law

It’s Saturday, and the height of vacation season, so the New York Times figured it might be a safe time to let slip a few facts about the recently passed “eavesdropping” bill:

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell

Reported Drop in Surveillance Spurred a Law


August 11, 2007

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — At a closed-door briefing in mid-July, senior intelligence officials startled lawmakers with some troubling news. American eavesdroppers were collecting just 25 percent of the foreign-based communications they had been receiving a few months earlier.

Congress needed to act quickly, intelligence officials said, to repair a dangerous situation.

Some lawmakers were alarmed. Others, jaded by past intelligence warnings, were skeptical.

The report helped set off a furious legislative rush last week that, improbably, broadened the administration’s authority to wiretap terrorism suspects without court oversight…

For months, Democrats had refused to give the administration new wiretapping powers until the White House agreed to turn over documents about the National Security Agency program to eavesdrop on some Americans’ international communications without warrants

For the White House and its Republican allies, the decision by the Democratic-controlled Congress to act quickly was critical to safeguarding the country this summer as intelligence officials spoke of increasing “chatter” among Qaeda suspects.

To many Democrats who opposed the action, it was a reflection of fear mongering by the White House, and political capitulation by some fellow Democrats.

“There was an intentional manipulation of the facts to get this legislation through,” said Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee who voted against the plan

“They have figured out that all they have to do is start talking about an imminent terrorist threat, back it up against a Congressional recess, and they know the Democrats will cave,” he added.

Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, said the White House “very skillfully played the fear card.”

The prelude to approval of the plan occurred in January, when the administration agreed to put the wiretapping program under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court is charged with guarding against governmental spying abuses. Officials say one judge issued a ruling in January that allowed the administration to continue the program under the court’s supervision.

A ruling a month or two later — the judge who made it and its exact timing are not clear — restricted the government’s ability to intercept foreign-to-foreign communications passing through telecommunication “switches” on American soil.

The security agency was newly required to seek warrants to monitor at least some of those phone calls and e-mail messages. As a result, the ability to intercept foreign-based communications “kept getting ratcheted down,” said a senior intelligence official who insisted on anonymity because the account involved classified material. “ We were to a point where we were not effectively operating.”

Mr. McConnell, lead negotiator for the administration in lobbying for the bill, said in an interview that the court’s restrictions had made his job much more difficult.

“It was crazy, because I’m sitting here signing out warrants on known Al Qaeda operatives that are killing Americans, doing foreign communications,” he said. “And the only reason I’m signing that warrant is because it touches the U.S. communications infrastructure. That’s what we fixed.” …

The proposal was considered dead on arrival by some Democrats, who argued that the administration was overreaching and asking Congress to legislate blindly without access to documents on the legal history and operations of the program…

When the administration proposed its revisions in April, “everyone kind of laughed at us,” said a Justice Department official who insisted on anonymity. “We got bludgeoned. People just said: ‘Are you kidding? We’re not even going to consider it.’

The administration’s classified briefings on the “intelligence gap” grew more urgent. In May, members of the Intelligence Committees began hearing about specific cases in which eavesdroppers could not intercept certain communications, said Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico.

By June and early July, Ms. Wilson said Friday in an interview, the scope of what intelligence officials were missing had grown “frighteningly large.” …

As this article points out, and as we noted last week, a FISA judge arbitrarily decreed that any communications between two foreign nationals was still off-limits to US intelligence agencies if it was ever routed through the US.

Given the communication networks of today, this is probably the case for much of the world’s telephone calls.

Congress has known about this problem since January. Nevertheless the Democrats had resisted all efforts to remedy this dangerous problem.

When the Republicans tried to expose their obstinacy, they were chided by the Democrats for revealing secrets.

But even after being dragged kicking and screaming into doing what clearly had to be done, the Democrats and their media water boys have spent all of their time trying to mischaracterize the bill and why it was necessary.

Apart from this preposterously verbose piece, which The Times chose to buy on a sleepy summer weekend.

But the real scandal is that the FISA made such an idiotic ruling. And that our Congress allowed it to blind out intelligence agencies for so many months.

And mind you, many of these Congressmen would already be dead if it weren’t for the brave passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11.

But the Democrats are so blinded by their hatred of this administration and the US in general they would rather be blown up than give those charged with protected our nation any “victories.”

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, August 11th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “NYT: Drop In Surveillance Spurred Law”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

« Front Page | To Top
« | »