What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 21, 2005

Some Guesses from the Experts

I found a pair of articles at defensetech.org that, while admittedly educated guesses, point to something deeply sinister going on in DC.

The first article.
A few current and former signals intelligence guys have been checking in since this NSA domestic spying story broke. Their reactions range between midly creeped out and completely pissed off.

All of the sigint specialists emphasized repeatedly that keeping tabs on Americans is way beyond the bounds of what they ordinarily do -- no matter what the conspiracy crowd may think.

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."
From that article, I found this one:
There's more to the NSA domestic spying case than the current storyline -- that much is clear. The idea that the Bush Administration needed to bypass the courts to get wiretaps quickly makes no sense; under the current system, you can start eavesdropping, and get a warrant later. The notion that disclosing the surveillance would somehow tip off potential terrorists is laughable, too; Al Qaeda types know they're being monitored.

That's all assuming, of course, that the wiretaps in this case are the same as in any other. But maybe they're not. Maybe there's something different about this surveillance. It could be in its scope, as Laura suggests. But I'm guessing -- and this is just a guess -- that the real difference is in the technology of the wiretaps themselves.
"Laura" refers to another signal intelligence-blogger. She wrote on 12/18:
There's something else about the Bush/NSA warrantless, oversight-less spying on Americans that doesn't make sense. The case Bush cited yesterday - of two San Diego based hijackers al Hazmi and al-Mihdhar and their overseas communications -- as a justification for going around the FISA court to use the NSA to spy on Americans making calls overseas -- really makes no sense.


Because it's pretty clear if you were tapping Mr. Al Mihdhar's calls to Germany and Mr. Al-Hazmi's calls to Germany and Afghanistan, that pretty soon, you would want to tap their calls to each other, in San Diego, or their calls with Mr. Atta, who was in Florida.

In other words, you would want to tap the calls between US based persons.

Why? Because what you're really worried about is what those potential terrorist cells are planning to do in the US.

So presumably, you would have to go to the FISA court at that point. (Bush hasn't admitted to the NSA being used to tap US to US calls -- yet).

But that's not how it worked. The way Bush did the NSA warrantless spying on Americans was no fine instrument. It was a blunt instrument. As the NYT reports today (Sunday), Bush ordered every communication to and from Afghanistan monitored by the NSA after September 11.
Back a step...

The second article ends this way:
So maybe the NSA wiretaps were using a new kind of capability; one that terror suspects might not have know about; one that might have even made the FISA court uncomfortable, somehow.

It's a lot of mights and maybes, I know. But the current threads of this story are so thin, it's time to start considering some alternatives.
I realize alot of this is guess work, but when the experts are saying it, some attention should probably be paid.

This is a dirty smelly mess. The President ordered the NSA to circumvent the law - and then admitted to it. Impeach the bastard.


Anonymous said...


Bill Clinton Signed Executive Order that allowed Attorney General to do searches without court approval

Clinton, February 9, 1995: "The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order"

WASH POST, July 15, 1994, "Administration Backing No-Warrant Spy Searches": Extend not only to searches of the homes of U.S. citizens but also -- in the delicate words of a Justice Department official -- to "places where you wouldn't find or would be unlikely to find information involving a U.S. citizen... would allow the government to use classified electronic surveillance techniques, such as infrared sensors to observe people inside their homes, without a court order."

Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, the Clinton administration believes the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

Secret searches and wiretaps of Aldrich Ames's office and home in June and October 1993, both without a federal warrant.

Government officials decided in the Ames case that no warrant was required because the searches were conducted for "foreign intelligence purposes," a goal of such vital national security interest that they said it justified extraordinary police powers.

Government lawyers have used this principle to justify other secret searches by U.S. authorities.

"The number of such secret searches conducted each year is classified..."

Jimmy Carter Signed Executive Order on May 23, 1979: "Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order."

Maria said...

Sorry! No cigar! See here for answer.