NYT hardcore concern trolls on FISA

>> Monday, June 9, 2008

I am constantly amazed by the White House’s ability to multitask when it wants to achieve its horrific agenda. One thing I thought we had finally found a victory on was the FISA legislation. Here was something we could at least be somewhat proud most of our Dems showed a vertebra or two. It appears that some of our Dems may be getting nervous, at least that’s what I get from the NYT who wrote a text book concern troll article on a possible “compromise”.

The opening paragraph gives an indication of what tone the article is going to take.

With Congress at an impasse over the government’s spy powers, Congressional and intelligence officials are bracing for the possibility that the government might have to revert to the old rules of terrorist surveillance, a situation that some officials predict could leave worrisome gaps in intelligence.

“Some officials predict could leave dangerous gaps in intelligence” is code for Republicans might not get to protect their corporate allies. Reverting to the old FISA would not be the worst thing to ever happen. If it were then the president would be willing to accept a short term extension to prevent any possible increase in risk. Instead, he is holding his breath still waiting for the Dems to cave. This idea of “dangerous gaps in our intelligence” has been revealed as false. Remember the White House FISA Facts Sheet?

MYTH: Even if the critical tools provided by the Protect America Act expire, the authorizations already in place to monitor terrorist communications will leave the Intelligence Community with all the tools it needs to continue current surveillance and begin new surveillance on any terrorist threat.

FACT: If Congress lets the Protect America Act expire without passing the bipartisan Senate bill, the Intelligence Community’s ability to obtain vital foreign intelligence information, including the location, intentions, and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad, will be weakened.

The Times itself ran a piece in February that pointed out the fact that there will not be any serious gaps.

The lapsing of the deadline would have little practical effect on intelligence gathering. Intelligence officials would be able to intercept communications from Qaeda members or other identified terrorist groups for a year after the initial eavesdropping authorization for that particular group.

If a new terrorist group is identified after Saturday, intelligence officials would not be able to use the broadened eavesdropping authority. They would be able to seek a warrant under the more restrictive standards in place for three decades through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

What happened? Where did the disconnect come from? They used to know that the Republican arguments were bogus but now they are running articles concern trolling for the Republicans. The article goes down hill from here. The next three paragraphs are just wrong.

But government and Congressional officials said in interviews that they saw it as a dangerous step backward. A return to the old rules, they said, would mean that government lawyers, analysts and linguists would once again have to prepare individual warrants, potentially thousands of them, for surveillance of terrorism targets overseas.

Telecommunications companies would also have to spend considerable time shutting down existing wiretaps, and then start them up again if ordered under new warrants, officials said. In some instances, the broad orders given to the companies starting last August cover tens of thousands of overseas phone numbers and e-mail addresses at one time, people with knowledge of the orders said. A senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration was concerned that reverting to the older standards and requiring individual warrants for each wiretap would create a severe gap in overseas intelligence by raising the bar for foreign surveillance collection.

In some cases, the government might simply be unable to establish in court why it suspected that a foreign target was connected to terrorism. Part of the problem, officials said, is that communications going from one foreign country to another sometimes travel through a telephone switch on American soil and, under some interpretations of the older rules, could not be tapped without an individual warrant.

Are you kidding me? There are two highlighted problems here. The first is that it would just be too much work. That is really the argument in the first two paragraphs. It is not that it is especially hard or a major hurdle it is just more work. The second argument is contained in the last paragraph. The second argument is that they might not be able to show a reason to tap the phones.

The bar is not particularly high. There hasn't been a single FISA warrant turned down since 9/11. You don't even need to have the warrant before you start wire-tapping the suspected terrorist. You get three whole days to prepare a warrant after the fact. There really is no reason that they would be unable to get a warrant from the FISA court unless they really have zero basis to get the warrant in the first place. If they cannot establish a link to terrorism in a secret court designed to hide secret sources then they have no basis for the warrant.

The Times goes all out to raise the concern level on this. They get quotes from some very impartial and impressive sources like Mukasey and unnamed Dem staffer probably working for Jay Rockefeller.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has described the idea of reverting to the older standards of foreign surveillance as “unthinkable,” adding, “I still hope and actually think that it won’t happen.”

Even some Democrats, at odds with the White House for months over the surveillance issue, said they were worried about the summer situation. “Until August, we’re O.K.,” said one senior Democratic Congressional aide involved in the negotiations. “After August, we’re not O.K.”

If it is so unthinkable that this legislation expires then pass the extension. It is not that big an impasse. If the fate of America is uncertain then the Republicans should simply help the extension pass. The White House and the GOP were really confident that the Dems would end up caving but when that did not come to pass they found themselves in a bad position, victims of their own hubris.

Officials said that even at the start of the year, when it became apparent that Congress might allow the temporary surveillance law to expire, intelligence officials took no steps to try to go to the secret intelligence court and renew the one-year authorizations from last August so that they would have extra time.

Some people still hold out hope that the Dems will cave and that the Republicans will get their way. Examples of these people include Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, and Senator Christopher S. Bond. Both have been working hard to ensure that ATT (as well as President Bush and their own asses) are well protected.

“I was hoping we’d made progress,” said Mr. Bond, who has been the White House’s point man in the talks. “But the longer this drags on — I’m not so sure.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee and is heading negotiations for the Democrats, declined to be interviewed, his office said. He said in a statement that “it has taken many months of difficult negotiations to get to this point, but I’m increasingly optimistic that we’re on the verge of a deal.”

Seriously no deals. Bush is almost gone why give in now? The Dems have finally done one thing that the American people elected them for and Rocky wants to give it all away. As always the motivation behind the potential Democratic capitulation is fear. Fear of being labeled “soft”. Soft on terror or crime or drugs or Iran, whatever it is being soft on it is seen as a major weakness and the accusation is something the DLCers seem to run from.

As hard as the White House has pushed, Democrats may have even more at stake. They acknowledge not wanting to risk reaching their national convention in Denver in August without a deal, lest that create an opening for the Republicans and Senator John McCain, their presumptive presidential nominee, to portray themselves as tougher on national security — a tried-and-true attack method in the past — just as the Democrats are nominating Senator Barack Obama.

There will be no opening if they stand tall. Anything backed by Bush is immediately suspect these days and Bush has gone to great lengths over his desire for immunity. The instances where Dems assert themselves on National Security have been rare. They need to become common. The GOP has proven that they cannot be trusted with the security of our nation. Capitulating on FISA would be a major step backward for the Dems and America. Another question might be why the NYT is concern trolling for the Republicans.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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