We are the 99%

August 23, 2007

Some Previously Secret FISA Details

According to the AP, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell revealed to The El Paso (Texas) Times some previously secret details:

  • McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector assisted with President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies are being sued for their cooperation. "Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies," McConnell said, arguing that they deserve immunity for their help.
  • He provided new details on court rulings handed down by the 11- member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves classified eavesdropping operations and whose proceedings are almost always entirely secret. McConnell said a ruling that went into effect May 31 required the government to get court warrants to monitor communications between two foreigners if the conversation travels on a wire in the U.S. network. Millions of calls each day do, because of the robust nature of the U.S. systems.
  • McConnell said it takes 200 hours to assemble a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. "We're going backwards," he said. "We couldn't keep up."
  • Offering never-disclosed figures, McConnell also revealed that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under FISA warrants. However, he said, thousands of people overseas are monitored.
Actually in the interview he called them "man hours" - I'll leave it to others to sort out the gender politics at play in that sentence.

He also said that Americans will die because of the discussion about FISA:

Q. So you're saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?

A. That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public. We used to do these things very differently, but for whatever reason, you know, it's a democratic process and sunshine's a good thing. We need to have the debate. The reason that the FISA law was passed in 1978 was an arrangement was worked out between the Congress and the administration, we did not want to allow this community to conduct surveillance, electronic surveillance, of Americans for foreign intelligence unless you had a warrant, so that was required. So there was no warrant required for a foreign target in a foreign land. And so we are trying to get back to what was the intention of '78. Now because of the claim, counterclaim, mistrust, suspicion, the only way you could make any progress was to have this debate in an open way.

And so it goes.

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