Feel Safe? Why?

“Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.” NY Times


This may have been a criminal act on the part of the president. The law which created the National Security Agency is pretty clear. NSA is about listening in on FOREIGN communications, not US domestic communications. There is an exception in the law that would allow NSA to be used for this purpose in exceptional circumstances and with the issuance of a writ by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Information so far does not indicate that this procedure was followed.

Congress is not happy. This probably played some role in defeat of the re-authorization of the Patriot Act.

It appears that Mr. John Yoo took the position while in government that in wartime the president of the USA could do whatever he liked.

Maybe not.

Pat Lang

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14 Responses to Feel Safe? Why?

  1. Patrick Henry says:

    Pat..This Revelation does not Suprise Me..in fact I have long suspected this type of activity in light of the Emotions of the 9/11 events.. and the Broad Range of intelligenct and Information gathering reforms.. which were well intended But Subject to the Greatest Abuses and Invasion of Privacy in American History..
    Just as we have long heard of Democrate Administrations and Repiblican Administrations getting access to FBI Files..to gain Information
    we Now have the potential for even greater POLITICAL
    Information Gathering and Abuses such as warrentless domestic spying..so that all kinds of information can now go up and down the Pipeline.. that is far beyond the scope of National Security Post 9/11 Requirements or intentions..when authorized by Congress..
    im glad there are those in our agencys with a Conscious..and recognize Abuses when they see it..
    Those of us loyal Americans who exercise our Free speech Rights..or dare to Question Policy or Decision MAKING..or Apparently attempts to abuse Power and Comment on it in a Forum Like this or to someone over the Internet..or through Peaceful Assemly..Or Petition our Government..
    We` defend the Constitution
    and Our Rights..
    LIBERTY is a Precious Word..
    Our Nation is Founded on it..We fought many wars to establish and Defend it..
    And there Must NEVER be a time that allows political Rhetoric to allow us to Give It Up..
    Under any Circumstances..
    i Have long despised the social and political abuses..Lies and Manipulations of all oppresive Regimes..
    History has show Us what happens to peoples who have Suffered under Tolitarian Regimes…

  2. Alvord says:

    The Bush Administration cherry picked legal opinions like they cherry picked preIraq war intel. From what I have read on the web and heard on TV since this came out, it appears that this time there is a strong case that they have broken the law. Since the Bush Justice Department is obviously conflicted in investigating this it would appear that another special counsel is necessary to determine if people should be indicted and stand trial. The only other alternative is the impeachment process. Of course since the President’s party controls both houses of Congress they may just give him and his people a pass if he promises not to do it again.

  3. Norbert Schulz says:

    IIRC the Iraq policy was made in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, OSP. It was then pushed through by the White House Iraq Group, WHIG.
    There sat people who had nothing to do with national security. Instead, their field was partisan attack politics. These people had top security clearances.
    They were basically doing political dirty tricks. The idea of what damage they could do to their political enemies with a top security clearance and the corresponding access to information is chilling.
    There was this tale from Capitol Hill Blue (I’m unsure about how reliable a source they are) about a White House enemies list with some 10.000 names on it. The info was said to in bart have been gathered using National Security Letters.
    When you then add the stories about domestic spying from the Pentagon, and illegal domestic spying by the NSA, coming out practically at the same time, it only fits the picture of an administration exercising executive power at whim under the veil of secrecy.
    Bush’s presidency has all been about ‘trust me’ and ‘you don’t need to know’.
    The point about Yoo is right on target. He practically declared Bush is king for the time of war, beyond the reach of law, and can’t be held accountable. Here is the whole creepy piece:
    Good thing is, it comes out at the right time of the year: It could have a major impact on the Patriot Act dispute.
    Ever the optimist, I strongly hope this will become Bush’s Watergate, and can be proven.
    At least, Nixon’s ‘plumbers’ were merely partisan hacks breaking the law like ordinary criminals, while Bush’s ‘plumbers’ illegally abuse executive powers. Far worse a case IMO.

  4. RJJ says:

    How can some Justice Department appointee write an opinion that confers powers on the president. Yoo wrote an opinion, not a decree.
    How does this work?
    Reminder: Scott McClellan declared George III’s comment on Delay’s innocence to be a presidential prerogative (the only time these people speak truth is in jest or by accident). Ask the Brits whither prerogative overreach leads.

  5. J says:

    will the congressional ‘look-see’ into bush’s breaking the law be merely congressional smoke-n-mirrors, especially in light of what was said in the ny times article — key members of congress on both sides were briefed by the bush admin. and kept silent about the whole bush orchestrated warrant-less eavesdropping stuff. are not those members of congress who knew and did nothing, accomplices in the breaking of the law? what are the names of those of the congress who were privy to bush’s law breaking?
    are we about to witness another congressional dog-n-pony show, crafted to let bush once again break u.s. laws and get off scott free? guess time will tell.

  6. tobin says:

    If Bush broke his oath of office and the 4th amendement and other US laws by ordering domestic surveillance by the NSA as he has admitted, can anything be done about it?
    Could he be sued in federal court? I realize he could be impeached but with his party in the majority in both houses that is very unlikely.

  7. Norbert Schulz says:

    you raise a very good point. Yes, Yoo wrote just a legal statement.
    Now, how come that Yoo makes such an extraordinary statement on executive power in times of war, that now defines the position of the administration, and no one except a few legal scholars disputes this?
    In my understanding of the constitutional significance of Yoo’s screed, there should be a debate in congress on this. I would expect Yoo’s view to be challenged.
    For some reason, it doesn’t happen.

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Frohe Weinachten

  9. RJJ says:

    Yoo Doctrine — appellatio praecox???
    When are policies eponymized? It is my [vague] impression that doctrines are customarily named for the president or for their high-level subordinates by historians late in the term or after the latter have left office. When have they been named for minor apparachiks?
    Is this vanity diddle the latest in party perqs or just inner beltway circle jerking?

  10. RJJ says:

    Vat meeens zees Frohe Wienachten?

  11. J says:

    there has only been 1, repeat 1 denial in the ‘entire history’ of warrant submissions to the fisa court. bush and his co-horts are blowing in the wind with their argument of how the fisa court is so hard to get a surveillance warrant through. if surveillance is so critical, parties can go ahead and submit their warrant application ‘after the fact’ if nat. sec. is ‘critical’
    bush and his co-horts are a bunch of liars.
    bah humbug!

  12. RJJ says:

    So forget the lofty appeal to abstractions/principles; these confuse a lot of people including my senators. Remember what Upton Sinclair said about The Jungle – he tried to reach men’s hearts, but only got to their stomachs? Am wondering if the practical implications might not be more effective.
    Perhaps the FISA court would not consider surveillance of opposition party (so to speak) members, potential defectors, or disgruntled civil servants a national security necessity. And it might leak.

  13. J says:

    ‘correction’ on my part. instead of 1 rejected it’s been 4 in 25 years plus.
    and all of the 4 were in the year 2003, under bush2’s watch. for years 79 thru 2003 there were ‘zero’ rejections of fisa warrant applications.

  14. Norbert Schulz says:

    Pat, danke auch, und frohes Fest allerseits 🙂
    About the only thing I like about Bush’s executive power grabs, is that it gives me opportunity to do comparative studies to German law, and procedures especially as they embody legal principles. It helps me learning. In lectures about constitutional law we have also discussed the legal principles of other nations, and the focus in the U.S. was strongly on checks and ballances, separation of powers, due process, individual rights and the rule of law.
    To me, Bush’s administration seems on a rampage against most of these strengths.
    Bush has allowed the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens. Now that does certainly infringe the privacy rights of those who are spied on.
    In German law, measures infringing basic rights do require a parliamentary law, and without it they are null and void.
    In contrast: To make the NSA spy on Americans, Bush issues a secret executive order, contra legem.
    Under Bush Jr. I see a systematic effort to expand executive power, led by the VP office, and an attempt to roll back legal protection against executive actions in court in favour of internal review inside the executive, of course, in secret.
    Government is fallible. So common sense strongly suggests legal checks on executive power. Considering the adverse possible consequences for a citizen, No-Fly-lists, the Patriot Act and domestic spying in general are cases in point that underline the need for transparency, due process and effective legal protection.
    To make that clearer I’ll try to transform the No-Fly-lists into standard German executive procedures: When a flying ban would be issued, the adressee would receive a letter, informing him that he is denied flying, why, and by whom, and based on which law, so the adressee can make a case to challenge this in court.
    Under current U.S. procedures the adressee finds himself in a buereaucratic maze. Not only a person is not informed when he or she is put on a no fly list – people learn about it at the airport when they are denied boarding. They are also not told why – the criteria are secret.
    Now try to make a case against you being on a No-Fly-list. Did the agency putting you on the No-Fly-list exercise its discretion properly? You can’t tell, the criteria are secret.
    IIRC a citizen’s request to be deleted from the list can only be addressed by the agency who put that person on the list – an information that’s unfortunately classified as well.
    So the person is supposed to pick one of the 30 or so security agencies in the U.S., and hope the one that put him on the no fly list is not so secret that no one knows about it’s existence. Or he can turn to the mysterious TSA ombudsman, if he is told that such a thing exists, who then decides in secrecy based on classified criteria. Swell.
    That’s Kafkaesque – and denies a citizen effective legal protection against a fundamental infringement of his freedom to move from A to B freely, and without being harassed through questioning, searches and long delay.
    For effective legal protection, transparency is key. The Bush administration’s obsessive secrecy is systematically undermining effective legal protection.
    More on this, here:
    Or take this case about this student who was ironically working on a research paper on fascism and totalitarianism: For this he ordered Mao’s litte red book from the library – and he had to justify himself to the FBI and line out why he wanted to read it. And even after complying, he still didn’t get the book.
    I don’t write this to boast that the German system is better, it is good IMO, and it is different, for good reasons, but it has underlying some of the same general principles that also lie under the U.S. system, and they are manifested in procedures and due process. The absence of the latter under the Bush administrations more intrusive measures is problematic, and suggests a trend.
    IMO today there is there is in America a conservative case to join the ACLU.

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