Entry for August 05, 2007

The picture is of Gloria and Don at Steppin’ Out yesterday evening. Tonight will be the BURG meeting at the Library to discuss further directions after the BZA ruling which went in favor of the developer.

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Today’s WaPo ran“House Approves Wiretap Measure: White House Bill Boosts Warrantless Surveillance, “ by staff writers Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick on the front page. Yesterday’s front page featured “Senate Votes To Expand Warrantless Surveillance: White House Applauds; Changes Are Temporary” by the same authors.

I was wondering how I missed all consideration of the new legislation, until I looked the measure up on the Library of Congress’s Thomas legislative information system and learned that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) only introduced S.1927 on August 1! The new law amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, originally enacted after revelation of CIA abuses, which required judicial oversight for most federal wiretapping conducted in the United States.

I was saddened (but unsurprised) to see the Dems can do no better than to send Bush the Protect America Act of 2007 , written by his intelligence advisors and allowing the wiretapping of foreigners without even a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order. FISA would be limited to examining whether Gonzalez’s guidelines for targeting overseas suspects are appropriate. What happened to the Democrats’ initiatives on abuses in the name of national security?

  • H.R.11, the NSA Oversight Act, reiterated that chapters 119 and 121 of title 18, United States Code, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 are the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance may be conducted. Introduced by Adam Schiff (D-CA) on 1/4/2007) , it has seen no action since its referral to the House Judidiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
  • S.139, Foreign Surveillance Expedited Review Act, would have expedited review by the Supreme Court of the warrantless electronic surveillance program of the National Security Agency. Introduced January 4, by Charles Schumer (D-NY), the measure was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  • S.1114, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2007, reiterated the exclusivity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as the sole authority to permit the conduct of electronic surveillance. Intorduced by Dianne Feinstein on 4/16/2007, its last action was referral that date to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  • H.R.1739 , the National Security Letter Judicial and Congressional Oversight Act, required the approval of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge or designated United States Magistrate Judge for the issuance of a national security letter and required the Attorney General to submit semiannual reports on national security letters. Introduced by Jane Harman (D-CA) on 3/28/2007, it was referred that date to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), and Financial Services.
  • S.1876, National Security with Justice Act of 2007, would prohibit extraterritorial detention and rendition, except under the FISA Court, modify the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” for purposes of military commissions, and extend statutory habeas corpus to detainees. Introduced by Joe Biden (D-DE) on 7/25/2007 , the measure was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  • H.R.3189, National Security Letters Reform Act of 2007, to establish reasonable procedural protections for the use of national security letters, Introduced by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on 7/26/2007, it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services.

Also notably missing in action is the bi-partisan measure H.R.2211 introduced May 8 by Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to require the President to transmit to Congress a report on every program of the Federal Government that authorizes or requires the gathering of information on United States persons in the United States, established whether in whole or in part pursuant to the “all necessary and appropriate force” clause contained in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) which sits in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

I’m tired of some Dems caving to the Prez’s accussations that they’re weak on terror. How about being weak on the fourth amendment, on civil liberties, on government intrusion? How about weakly volunteering to let the actions of terrorists on 9-11 destroy our way of life?

Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington legislative director noted that Democrats

have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word ‘terrorism,’ they roll over and play dead.

The Senate approved the measure August 3 on a vote of 60 to 28. The House on August 4, on a vote of 227 to 183. Said former Democrat Joe Lieberman (I-CT),

We’re at war. The enemy wants to attack us. This is not the time to strive for legislative perfection.

The sole concession: McConnel’s amendment to be reconsidered in six months. Let’s hope the Dems grow some balls before then. The bill’s sunset clause was insufficent for Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ).

I’m not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily. The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security.

Now, the NSA can not only collect purely foreign communications that happen to pass through a communications node on U.S. soil without a warrant; it allows the interception and recording of electronic communications involving people “reasonably believed to be outside the United States” without a court’s order or oversight. The bill allows the monitoring of going overseas that originate in the United States, without a court order, if the government deems the recipient to be the target of a U.S. probe. What in the heck doesn that mean? Virtually any calls, e-mails or other communications? Can we really believe White House spokesman Tony Fratto when he claims that the bill is not meant to increase eavesdropping on Americans or “to affect in any way the legitimate privacy rights” of U.S. citizens.

Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology predicted that the bill’s approval would lead to the monitoring of ordinary Americans by the NSA.

If this bill becomes law, Americans who communicate with a person abroad can count on one thing: The NSA may be listening.

Like Nojeim, I fail to be comforted by the “senior intelligence official” who told WaPo that in cases in which an overseas target is communicating with people in the United States not relevant to an investigation, their names are “minimized,” or strippe
d from the transcript, before it is disseminated.

You won’t see data mining in there. You won’t see vast drift net surveillance of Americans. . . . What we do not do is target people in the United States without a warrant.

Yeah, right!

The WaPo quoted one angry Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of caucus discussions.

There are a lot of people who felt we had to pass something. It was tantamount to being railroaded.

Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said lawmakers were being “stampeded by fearmongering and deception” into voting for the bill. Jane Harmon (D-CA) warned that the bill would lead to “potential unprecedented abuse of innocent Americans’ privacy.”

On Thursday, Democratic leaders thought they had reached a deal with the government’s chief intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, only to be presented with a new list of conditions at the last minute. The White House and McConnell, of course, deny that any deal had been reached.

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of McConnell,

We did everything he wants, and now he says he doesn’t like the bill. They didn’t move the goal post; they moved the stadium.

Said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), an intelligence committee member,

I think the White House didn’t want to take ‘yes’ for an answer from the Democrats.

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