Entry for December 16, 2005

Patriot Act

The above is from Chris M. Fick at his site, http://fixco1.com

The Senate today refused to reauthorize the Patriot Act, after leaders were unable to garner enough votes to stop a threatened filluster,  This comes after recent disclosures by NBC news of a War Protest Database and the article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau in New York Times, December 15, 2005, “Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say”.  This article divulged that in the months after the September 11 attacks that the President

 

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.

 

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President 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.

 

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

 

This followed disclosures in an article by Barton Gellman in the

Washington Post, November 6, 2005, A-1, “The FBI’s Secret Scrutiny: In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans” .

 

That article told how

 

Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian
to surrender “all subscriber information, billing information and access
logs of any person” who used a specific computer at a library branch some
distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut
libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy.

 

Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library
Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in
public.

 

The most explosive revelation, which the government has attempted to rebut was that

 

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year,
according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms.
The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many
people — are extending the bureau‘s reach as never before into the telephone
calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need
the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review
after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch
maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified
reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to
require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use
of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

 

Another interesting addition is openthegovernment.org’s report on government secrecy

This month’s 24-page  pdf document explains why secrecy and open government matters, including current problems such as Abu Ghraib and censoring photos, and where to go for more on the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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