TCS Daily


Media Crank Call

By Michael Rosen - May 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Ever since USA Today broke a story on May 11 about the National Security Agency's (NSA) secret review of millions of phone records, the media and civil libertarians alike have gotten their knickers in a twist. But here's the problem: the story isn't news, it isn't accurate, and it isn't (or shouldn't be) troubling.

According to America's leading newspaper (by circulation), "the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth." Citing sources "with direct knowledge of the arrangement", the paper's Leslie Cauley quoted a source who described the program as "the largest database ever assembled in the world." The ultimate goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the U.S.

The revelation ignited a firestorm in the mainstream media. The USA Today itself breathlessly editorialized that "your phone company (if you are a customer of AT&T, BellSouth or Verizon) tossed your privacy to the wind and collaborated with this extraordinary intrusion, and...did so secretly and without following any court order." Not to be outdone, the New York Times editorial page railed against this "clandestine surveillance program of enormous size, which is being operated by members of the administration who are subject to no limits or scrutiny beyond what they deem to impose on one another." Congressional leaders of both parties promised hearings to look into the program.

The trial lawyers got in on the act, too, waiting only a few days before filing class action lawsuits, some of which claimed damages of hundreds of billions of dollars, and as much as $1,000 per customer disclosure. While these suits face significant legal hurdles, they have nonetheless frightened the big phone companies.

In response, last week BellSouth, Verizon, and AT&T all issued furious denials. BellSouth, claiming that "we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA", demanded that USA Today retract the story while Verizon insisted that it "was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did [it] provide, customer phone records." AT&T claimed that it had "not given customer information to government agencies without legal authorization."

But as inflammatory as Cauley's story was, it simply wasn't news. Back in late December 2005, the New York Times's Eric Lichtblau and James Risen -- who had earlier revealed the existence of another NSA program that monitored the content of international communications involving suspected terrorists -- reported that NSA officials were analyzing millions of phone records allegedly "collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries." I humbly note that even I was able to discern this back in January. Yet only a handful of major media outlets reminded the public that the USA Today story was a rehash.

Worse, the story, and the paper's follow-on reporting, has been deeply misleading. USA Today headlined its article "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls" (emphasis added). This implies that the government is actually reviewing the content of these calls, not merely the phone records -- i.e. the numbers dialed, the frequency of calls, the length of calls, etc. An article on May 16 was entitled "Bush once again defends legality of electronic surveillance programs," implying that the executive branch is eavesdropping on domestic calls, not merely reviewing the data associated with those calls.

This sleight-of-hand, of course, is consistent with USA Today's editorial position. As the paper opined, "only the most naive and unsuspicious soul could trust that it will remain safe, secured and for the eyes only of those hunting terrorists."

Well, call me naïve and unsuspicious, but I have little doubt that this information is indeed crucial in the hunt for terrorists. And perhaps I'm still under the influence of United 93 -- a wrenching, intense, beautiful film that every American should see -- but it seems crystal-clear to me that the executive branch must be empowered to data-mine in search of potentially life-saving intelligence. After all, advocacy groups such as the ACLU and political parties alike engage in such tactics.

Besides, according to most reports, the data review is mostly if not entirely computerized; massively parallel-processing servers are apparently employing highly sophisticated search algorithms to discern patterns among the tens of millions of records. With proper anonymizing safeguards in place, there's little reason for Americans to be alarmed that robotic, not human, eyes are purportedly combing through our phone records.

We should also keep in mind that this information is not being used for law enforcement or criminal justice purposes, nor should it be. It's the NSA, not the FBI, that's conducting the searches in question. Simply because one branch of the government has access to this information does not imply that all branches do -- much less that any such data could be used in a court of law to convict anyone. The mined info is purely for intelligence purposes.

Critics of the program neglect this distinction at their peril, hiding behind a spurious slippery-slope argument. There's no question that every government must draw the line between privacy and security somewhere. The mere fact that the line has shifted toward security since 9/11 does not necessarily entail further movement.

Still, though, a governmental entity besides the NSA itself should have some limited supervision over this and similar programs. As I suggested back in January with respect to the wiretapping efforts, an executive branch-based independent counsel or a more muscular, efficient, and discreet FISA court would reassure Americans that their private information is being reviewed purely for national defense purposes.

As one security expert succinctly put it to the Wall Street Journal, "the requirement for showing 'probable cause' prior to the use of any data analysis or electronic surveillance technology is appropriate where one is targeting known terrorists. Unfortunately it is not adequate for finding unknown terrorists and what is needed is a legal procedure -- authority and oversight -- for such uses. The point is that existing mechanisms don't work."

Congress, too, could do something useful: pass legislation shielding the phone giants from litigation stemming from the NSA requests. Believe me when I say that I hold no truck for my local phone company. But it's highly unfair to expect these businesses to resist good faith national security demands from the NSA.

In the end, we must all realize the compelling need to provide powerful, computerized tools to those charged with defending all Americans. Nearly five years since the devastating attacks, we have, thank God, begun to resume life as usual -- thanks in no small part to vigorous efforts by the President to keep us safe. Yes, let's make certain that these efforts ensure our basic freedoms. But let's also make certain that they protect our lives.

Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's IP columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.

Categories:

70 Comments

Yes,Yes I'm from the Government I'm here to help.
Isn't that one of the right fav's to deride the left about funny when it's a right wing Government that saying it, it's true all of a sudden. The hypocrisy of this site is utterly amazing.

We just want to know who your friends are
Not to worry, folks. We're not listening in to what you're talking about. We just want to know who you're calling.

One thing about these drip-by-drip revelations we've been hearing about every week is that at every turn, the problem is worse than we feared last week. We do know from experience that guidelines and processes that sound like they're being used against legitimate enemies end up being used against peace marchers, our "internal dissidents".

So the government sets up a list of everybody they know is involved in peace demonstrations, and finds out who they're calling. Then they look at who those people are calling. After a while, you have The List.

This was going on between Hoover's FBI and Nixon's White House. Then things supposedly changed, and Americans were assured those days were over. But it still continued. Innocuous groups were harassed by persons unknown, who broke into offices and stole files. Everyone knew who they were.

This time it'll be much more blatant. If they feel fear they'll start pulling people in for questioning. Drip by drip, our freedoms will erode.

They'll need to adopt some kind of uniform, like the White House guards did under Nixon. Something with lots of epaulets, and leather belts.

. . . and it's illegal.
> Well, call me naïve and unsuspicious, but I have
> little doubt that this information is indeed crucial
> in the hunt for terrorists.

There is no evidence that this kind of data mining works. It certainly doesn't on the Enron dataset.

> . . . it seems crystal-clear to me that the
> executive branch must be empowered to data-mine in
> search of potentially life-saving intelligence.

Fine. Lobby for a "Privacy Protection act of 2006" (Always consult George Orwell when naming a law). Until then, the operation is illegal.

> After all, advocacy groups such as the ACLU and
> political parties alike engage in such tactics.

Do they tap phones?

> With proper anonymizing safeguards in place, there's
> little reason for Americans to be alarmed that
> robotic, not human, eyes are purportedly combing
> through our phone records.

Safeguards work if people follow them. The NSA under Bush/Cheney has ignored safeguards in the FISA act, and the Telecommunications Act (which explicitly makes it illegal for phone companies to provide source and desitnation information). The fact that computers are involved does not change that. Recent leaks suggest that NSA activities are not limited to recording source and destination, but that they also monitor content.

It's called...
"connecting the dots". It is very difficult to do if you don't have any dots.

But who cares? Let's just wait until there are more suicide bombings (with 767s or otherwise) in the US, then prosecute the perpetrators (oops!). Somewhere along the way, we could also mourn (pray for?) the victims.

Except that it doesn't help
If you think it's worth trading basic freedoms to have marginally better protection against terrorist incidents like 9/11, fine. I don't. Terror attempts are sporadic at best, while curtailments of our freedoms can be forever.

Not even counting the Murrah Building bombing, there was an attack on our soil in 1994, and another in 2001. None were successfully detected or averted. And the reason was not an inability to track everyone's phone calls and e-mails. It was due to bureaucratic blundering. The result? 3,000 lives lost.

We've been around all this before. These kinds of moves never improve our ability to detect danger. Our problems are structural in nature, and have to do with governmental incompetence. All they do is give the government another way to track the activities of peaceful domestic dissidents. The reason we haven't had another 9/11 is because no one has been trying these past 4-1/2 years.

If the choice were mine, I would keep the federal government out of our private lives and instead have them devote more resources to chasing Bin Laden, who they've apparently given up on.

Data sources please
"These kinds of moves never improve our ability to detect danger."

"The reason we haven't had another 9/11 is because no one has been trying these past 4-1/2 years."

"If the choice were mine, I would keep the federal government out of our private lives and instead have them devote more resources to chasing Bin Laden, who they've apparently given up on."

Stop complaining about "not connecting the dots" if you are not willing to have the dots collected and analyzed. You get to choose one position, not both.

The real story
The real story would be the domestic phone tapping, internet spying and information blocking done by DOD just to cover their own gross negligence. Don't guess I should hold my breath waiting for that one.

If
If the FBI or NSA intercepted, let's quite illegally, information that someone was going to kill you, would it be ok for them to pursue that information or would they have to wait until they tried and or succeeded?

Disposable Phones
Remember when a paper reported the US had the ability to tap into satellite telphones? Osama was seen using them in the past. Now they use couriers. Less efficient, but more secure and more difficult for us to track.
Doesn't anyone watch '24'? Last season's terrorists used disposable cell phones to contact each other. They would be used once and thrown away. Now what if the NSA program could track multiple disposable cell phone calls to a permanent number. Would that be an interesting thread to pull?
Since this administration agreed with the terrorists, we are at war, intelligence information need not be used for trial, but to stop attacks or kill the enemy.

Your opinion
Obviously not all legal experts agree with your assessment.

Until cell phone users respect my privacy
I'm hard pressed to agitate for privacy of phone conversations when I'm forced to listen to conversations at every public place - and some private places, as well.

Judging from the recent performance of the FBI
...they'd run around in circles and find bureaucratic reasons why protecting me was someone else's responsibility.

Not their job
I'm not sure about the FBI but local police officers are under no legal obligation to protect you. Their obligation is to arrest those who commit crimes, not to prevent crimes from occurring.

definitions
By definitions, the real experts agree with the liberal position. When they stop agreeing with the liberals, they stop being experts.

That's in the nature of law
Until and unless you commit a crime, you're not guilty of anything and can't be arrested. (Philip K. **** wrote a nice little book about police basng themselves on psychics, later made into the film Minority Report).

But as far as having no obligation to protect-- I think a lawyer who found out that police had solid information of a plot to murder his client's dead wife and did nothing would have a pretty good case.

So...
"WASHINGTON, June 27, 2005 - The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation."
http://flyservers.registerfly.com/members5/policecrime.com/policeprotection.html

That's why the 2nd Amendment is so important.

Spy & Buy
The Snooping Goes Beyond Phone Calls
Business Week, May 29, 2006

...The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans' finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. OFTEN, THE AGENCIES AND THEIR CONTRACTORS DON'T ENSURE THE DATA'S ACCURACY, the GAO found...

"Grabbing data wholesale from the private sector is the way agencies are GETTING AROUND THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE PRIVACY ACT AND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT," says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington and a member of the Homeland Security Dept.'s Data Privacy & Integrity Advisory Committee.

The Justice Dept. alone, which includes the FBI, spent $19 million in fiscal 2005 to obtain commercially gathered names, addresses, phone numbers, and other data, according to the GAO. The Justice Dept. obeys the Privacy Act and "protects information that might personally identify an individual," a spokesman says. Despite the GAO's findings, a Homeland Security spokesman denies that his agency purchases consumer records from private companies. The State Dept. didn't respond to requests for comment...

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_22/b3986068.htm

Unsealing the Evidence
Why We Published the AT&T Docs
Wired, May 22, 2006

...AT&T claims information in the file is proprietary and that it would suffer severe harm if it were released. Based on what we've seen, Wired News disagrees. In addition, we believe the public's right to know the full facts in this case outweighs AT&T's claims to secrecy.

As a result, we are publishing the complete text of a set of documents from the EFF's primary witness in the case, former AT&T employee and whistle-blower Mark Klein -- information obtained by investigative reporter Ryan Singel through an anonymous source close to the litigation.

...Before publishing these documents we showed them to independent security experts, who agreed they pose no significant danger to AT&T. For example, they do not reveal information that hackers might use to easily attack the company's systems.

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70947-0.html?tw=wn_technology_6

The documents:
http://blog.wired.com/27BStroke6/att_klein_wired.pdf

Freedoms?
I get a kick at these constant claims that our freedoms are being curtailed. Just what, Mr. Bean, can you no longer do that you could do before? The fact that the government is keeping an eye on you should not be a surprise. It's done all the time, from watching what you earn, to making sure that your autos are registered, to making sure that your house is up to code.

So now the government can tell who you called (although, they don't know that its YOU without a court order, only that a certain number called other numbers). How, exactly, is that impinging on your freedom?

-Bob

and criteria
An expert is someone who has distinguished himself or herself in the field in question. For example, Lance Armstrong is an expert on bike riding. We prefer experts who with less motivation for bias. For example, we regard Alan Dershowitz' opinion on NAS wiretapping more than Alberto Gonzalez' althought they both are experts in this kind of law.

I have not seen independent experts claiming that NSA wiretapping is legal. Even Michael M. Rosen doesn't. He says that it's necessary and harmless, which is not the same thing.

if you haven't found any
It must be because you are keeping your eyes screwed shut.

or you use biased definitions
such as,

someone who works for the administration is not independant.

however, someone who works for the Democrats and is a long time critic of the administration is.

Interesting story
which does check out. Thank you for posting it

This has nothing to do with terrorism, slippery slopes or law enforcement.
This whole issue of monitoring the citizenry has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. The only thing the scum bag terrorists did was provide the issue. Without terrorism, the current cabal of Republicans and Democrats would never be able to justify this kind of behavior.

As for a slippery slope, there isn't one. If the spy agencies can monitor US citizens and store the information, then the other alphabet soup of agencies is only a court order away, a secret one at that, of accessing the data.

As for actually fighting the terrorst scum? If the US government was really interested in doing that then they would be taking these valuable resources away from pointlessly monitoring law abiding citizens and applying those assets in ways that have a higher probability of actually leading to the terrorists. For example finding out why the Feds dropped the ball when they had reports from pilot trainers about nut jobs who wanted to learn to fly but not land.

Ah Roy admits he's been talking to people he shouldn't have
I can understand your rage Roy. Talking with those jihaddies and the government got you on tape!

Oh my God what's happened to our freedoms?
I haven't noticed any loss of freedoms compared to Clinton's burning women and children because they had religious practices he didn't approve of. But after all didn't the Pilgrims burn women and children for the same reason? Isn't this what makes the Left great?

Anyone notice how your freedoms have been trampled on by jackbooted thugs? Me neither, at least not like when Clinton sent in his ATF goons to snatch a little Cuban refugee from his family so he could be sent back to CUBA at gunpoint. After all those family members had all those dangerous stuffed animals to resist with.

Anyone out there feel that this administration has used the IRS or FBI to blackmail you. As Clinton did with thousands of confidential files that it reviewed by specially selected strip bar bouncers for content it could use to blackmail its opponents. But this wasn't a threat to the Republicx was it?

Finally Roy I am sure that whit house interns everywhere are happy to hear you'd keep the federal government out of their private lives and have it devote themselves to chasing Bin Laden. Did you know Clinton was actually enjoying devoting the full resources of the government to chasing Bin Laden while one of those interns was "focusing" him?

Nice comment
Few Americans realize that the police have no duty to defend them. But the real reason the 2nd amendment is so important is as the founders said an armed populace is our best guarantee of libert, and they didn't mean against foreign tyrants.

Unfortunately irrellevant and over ruled.
The Supreme Court has ruled on this matter. It has been in effect since Washington's time. The day that gentlemen "didn't read our people's mail" is a wonderful belief for clergymen and suicide for a nation's leaders.

Gee Hampton why should they do that-the IRS has that data
Or didn't you realize it?

PC
" For example finding out why the Feds dropped the ball when they had reports from pilot trainers about nut jobs who wanted to learn to fly but not land."

You give the 'government' way too much credit.
All members of Congress want to do is get re-elected.
All government employees want is to keep their jobs and try to get promoted.
There were diligent agents who did notice the terrorists, but their supervisors were afraid of making waves or making mistakes and screwing up their next promotion.

There are NO incentives in the government to actually DO your job the best you can.

Irrelevant hate
Sure, Waco was all Clinton's direct doing; the FBI on the scene had nothing to do with it.
http://www.usdoj.gov/05publications/waco/wacoexec.html

>Me neither, at least not like when Clinton sent in his ATF goons to snatch a little Cuban refugee from his family so he could be sent back to CUBA at gunpoint.

To be sent back to his father. And you're totally in favor of completely unrestricted immigration, aren't you?

> As Clinton did with thousands of confidential files that it reviewed by specially selected strip bar bouncers for content it could use to blackmail its opponents

The investigation into this turned up nothing. But you know the whole truth.

>Did you know Clinton was actually enjoying devoting the full resources of the government to chasing Bin Laden while one of those interns was "focusing" him?

Whereas President Bush has brought Bin Laden to justice. Pour yourself another tall one.

Perhaps its because folks like you don't walk the walk...
One only has to look at the juries that have tried the bombers of the WTC and their accomplices to see that they didn't have the IQ or balls to issue a death penalty.

So the bottom line is whats the point of the government doing its job if we are cursed with people who can't tell right from wrong.

Matthew 7-3-5

On being watched
There's nothing new about it. As I mentioned, lists were kept by J Edgar Hoover and by Richard Nixon. But it's still against the American spirit to be again engaging in the tracking of dissidents. I would have no problem with such a program if in fact I believed it was solely to detect genuine subversives-- but that has never been the case.

Couple the fact of being tracked with the suspension of due process and you have the detention of political prisoners. No evidence has yet been produced to implicate Jose Padilla in any plot, yet there he sits, beyond the reach of our body of laws.

The government does keep demographic data, credit data, employment data and every other kind. But individuals are not identified. This is different. Tell me how the NSA can monitor your phone number without knowing whose number it is. They don't have phone books? And if they aren't looking at whose phones they're tracking, just how is this program effective in monitoring terrorists?

It doesn't pass the sniff test. They are taking names.

A silly question
"If the FBI or NSA intercepted, let's quite illegally, information that someone was going to kill you, would it be ok for them to pursue that information or would they have to wait until they tried and or succeeded?"

We have decided as a society that they shouldn't be looking in the first place, unless they have some concrete reason to suspect a murder plot. And if they do suspect, they have to convince a judge to issue them a tap order. That's a fundamental check and balance that we've always had in our system. 9/11 alone is not a sufficient reason to overturn all our basic liberties, one by one.

FISA gave them the whole world. Here was a secret, rubber stamp court with a far lower level of evidence needed to approve a tap. And they'd even let you tap first and ask later. And that STILL wasn't enough for the White HOuse. What they are looking for is total impunity to be above the body of law.

Also, we haven't heard the last of it. Every week something new comes out, a little more egregious than what we had been told previously. I wonder what we'll find they've been doing next week.

Interesting hypothetical
Probably a billion people have cell phones. You think it's fruitful to track them all to see if any have only been used once? I don't.

In the event that a genuine person of interest is making phone calls, the NSA or any other agency can start tracking them in the heat of the chase. They still have 72 hours to go to the FISC (Fisa court) and make it all legal. Why exactly is this not enough power for them?

Proverbs 26.4
But why not post more hateful abuse?

Taking names?
Yup Padilla sits in jail because he's a choirboy. That's why no judge will set him loose. But we do have the Mummia crowd to tell us in the face of all evidence and experience that Padilla is a choirboy just like Mummia.

Perhaps someone can explain to me exactly what Karl Rove had against this poor guy and why no one will stand up for him in the entire US government. Are we to believe that the entire government has it in for him?

As for taking names one suspects Roy is behind all those emails one gets from Nigeria. He'd best worry.

Isn't Technology Wonderful?
I have a cell phone with an AZ area code. I don't live in AZ.
I can buy a cell phone in WalMart with a US area code, take it to Germany and people in the USA can call me using the US area code number. With that same phone, I can dial a US number and get a cell phone in Pakistan being carried by a Pakistani. I might not even be a US citizen.

Quick Judge, do you need a warrent to listen to the conversations?

But of course, you are a judge and have heard ALL the evidence and have determined that the secret information leaked to the press indicates the government is doing something illegal.

And after 72 hours the need for the original warrent is probably on longer needed.

Yes you do
I can't tell if you're purposely acting the idiot or whether it comes naturally.

Yes, you need a warrant to eavesdrop. But you can start listening first, and then you still have another 72 hours to apply for the warrant. That's the hot pursuit part.

If you're so busy listening that you can't move from the equipment, you can send the kid who gets coffee out to get the warrant. In this country we don't trust the authorities. So we place certain limits on THEIR freedoms, to better preserve our won. And if they break the rules we set for them, we have to get rid of them.

Yes you do
I can't tell if you're purposely acting the idiot or whether it comes naturally.

Yes, you need a warrant to eavesdrop. But you can start listening first, and then you still have another 72 hours to apply for the warrant. That's the hot pursuit part.

If you're so busy listening that you can't move from the equipment, you can send the kid who gets coffee out to get the warrant. In this country we don't trust the authorities. So we place certain limits on THEIR freedoms, to better preserve our own. And if they break the rules we set for them, we have to get rid of them.

Be careful, that's how it starts
I started out the same way you're doing here, engaging this guy and refuting some of his talking points. Now I can't get rid of him. He patrols the place daily, making inanely inappropriate comments on every single comment I make. He's like a case of the crabs.

My advice would be to ignore the provocation. It's a full time job with him, and you won't be able to keep up.

intelligence
these intelligence efforts are wrong. we just need a policy that demands that all terrorists and supporters of these terrorist turn themselves in.

there. the terrorism problem is now solved. the country is safe. the world is safe. we can feel safe and we retain all of our freedoms

Where was the OUTRAGE?
"KROFT: Much of what's known about the Echelon program comes not from enemies of the United States, but from its friends. Last year, the European Parliament, which meets here in Strasbourg, France, issued a report listing many of the Echelon's spy stations around the world and detailing their surveillance capabilities. The report says Echelon is not just being used to track spies and terrorists. It claims the United States is using it for corporate and industrial espionage as well, gathering sensitive information on European corporations, then turning it over to American competitors so they can gain an economic advantage."

http://cryptome.org/echelon-60min.htm

Oh, Clinton was president then.

FISA follies
"But there's more to the story than that. In 2002, when the president made his decision, there was widespread, bipartisan frustration with the slowness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy involved in seeking warrants from the special intelligence court, known as the FISA court. Even later, after the provisions of the Patriot Act had had time to take effect, there were still problems with the FISA court — problems examined by members of the September 11 Commission — and questions about whether the court can deal effectively with the fastest-changing cases in the war on terror.

People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. "It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together," says one source. "It's not so much that the court doesn't grant them quickly, it's that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it's still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check." And even though the attorney general has the authority in some cases to undertake surveillance immediately, and then seek an emergency warrant, that process is just as cumbersome as the normal way of doing things.

Lawmakers of both parties recognized the problem in the months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. They pointed to the case of Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who ran up against a number roadblocks in her effort to secure a FISA warrant in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda operative who had taken flight training in preparation for the hijackings. Investigators wanted to study the contents of Moussaoui's laptop computer, but the FBI bureaucracy involved in applying for a FISA warrant was stifling, and there were real questions about whether investigators could meet the FISA court's probable-cause standard for granting a warrant. FBI agents became so frustrated that they considered flying Moussaoui to France, where his computer could be examined. But then the attacks came, and it was too late."

http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york200512191334.asp

Sure, send the coffee boy to the FISA court to get a warrent in 72 hours.

Coffee Kid
"People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. "It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together," says one source. "It's not so much that the court doesn't grant them quickly, it's that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it's still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check." And even though the attorney general has the authority in some cases to undertake surveillance immediately, and then seek an emergency warrant, that process is just as cumbersome as the normal way of doing things.

Lawmakers of both parties recognized the problem in the months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. They pointed to the case of Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who ran up against a number roadblocks in her effort to secure a FISA warrant in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda operative who had taken flight training in preparation for the hijackings. Investigators wanted to study the contents of Moussaoui's laptop computer, but the FBI bureaucracy involved in applying for a FISA warrant was stifling, and there were real questions about whether investigators could meet the FISA court's probable-cause standard for granting a warrant. FBI agents became so frustrated that they considered flying Moussaoui to France, where his computer could be examined. But then the attacks came, and it was too late."

http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york200512191334.asp

No they did not…
They meant our government, and that was explictly pointed out on more than one occasion.

Apparently no data sources exist
do they, Roy

Maybe, maybe not
To me, we obviously need good intervention on the part of international law enforcement. And a national security force that can paint within the lines and still function.

Is that asking too much?

Good post
My respect for you increases, marjon. You actually have come up with a respectable critique of FISA, which is something not even the authors in the TCS stable have bothered to do. It's refreshing to discuss things with someone who has actually looked through the material on the way toward forming their opinion. Assuming of course that your opinion wasn't formed first, and supporting evidence then sought.

Police work always entails cumbersome procedural hurdles, and many cases get away from people because they don't have enough time to be on the street and filing paperwork at the same time. Officers I know have been known to solve the problem merely by finding the suspect they like for a crime, pounding the crap out of him and not bothering with an arrest. In Colombia, Brazil and many other places death squads solve the problem of stuffy procedural rules.

I don't want that here. If the occasional perp gets away with something, it's often been said that that's the price we pay for a free society. And I like it fine that way.

Is the price we pay too great? Let's look for some round numbers. In the past 16 years we have lost some 3200 citizens to acts of terror on American soil. That figure includes the OKC bombing.

So that would be 200 people per year, on average. More than the number hit by lightning, but fewer than the number dying in bathtub falls. Certainly far, far fewer than the number killed by gunshots, whether from misadventure or from homicide. Even if you throw out the suicides, gun ownership is far more hazardous to our health than is home grown and international terrorism combined. Yet we find the current condition acceptable.

If someone in authority were to decide we should indefinitely imprison anyone owning a gun and deemed to be a potential murderer, without the need for either the protections of habeas corpus or an actual crime having been committed, would you back that plan?

I wouldn't. If the executive branch finds that FISA is too stifling for its creative juices, there is an avenue of appeal for them. They can take their case to a prostrate, abject Congress and ask them to change the rules. They can't just decide they don't like the rules so they don't need to follow them.

You show signs of intelligence. Why then do I get the feeling this is hard for you to comprehend?

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