Monday, August 13, 2007

Pale Rider on FISA (with an assist from yours truly)

Let’s cut to the chase: There was no compelling reason to "change" or modify any existing FISA laws. That is the LIE they are telling to justify this.

FISA has been amended as technology has changed. If someone invents a new way to communicate wirelessly, FISA can and will be amended and updated to adapt to that new technology, if it is needed.

The “security” angle was a figleaf. This was about removing the oversight, not increasing the ability to conduct surveillance. We have always had, under FISA, the ability to monitor communications for 72 hours without a warrant. We have always had the ability to surveil foreigners without a warrant. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, if anyone talks to a terrorist, no matter who they are, those communications can be collected without a warrant.

This is irregardless of whether the communications are "routed" through US territory or through a telecommunications switch located in the US. This has nothing to do with the location of switches or anything like that. In fact, read up on how most of the world's telecommunications traffic is routed through a certain switch physically located in Northern Virginia and then perhaps you can explain why a certain intelligence agency and several hundred billion dollars worth of facilities, personnel and technology also happens to be located in that same general area of Northern Virginia.

The intercepted communications of anyone engaged in planning, supporting, financing or backing a terrorist against this country has not nor has it ever required to have any kind of a warrant so long as one of the parties involved is, in fact, a foreigner engaged in that activity. If that person talks to a US person, a FISA warrant most certainly is not required, but the communications are simply reviewed as part of the ongoing process of collecting and disseminating information. (Bet you didn't know that, did you? Because so long as one end of the conversation is a non-US entity, we have always been able to collect that information--something they simply don't want you to know.)

Now, warrantless surveillance can commence even when both parties are US Persons, and continue for 72 hours, until such time as the FISA court can convene and see the evidence. The operation will not be stopped unless ordered to stop by the FISA court. Anyone engaged in collecting on these persons has to ANSWER to a higher authority for their actions--this is called accountability. If an intel agent has legitimate reasons to conduct surveillance, the courts and the oversight personnel will gladly sign off on the work being done.

Please STOP viewing this through the media-and-popular entertainment filter.

There is no dastardly, unimaginative bureaucrat engaged in thwarting the efforts of an intrepid and dazzling young intel agent who just wants to stop the terrorists while the bean counters just want to save money. This is not a "plot line" and there is no correlation between this issue and whatever crap sandwich of a TV show you think you remember.

Oversight is of increasing and desperate importance, given that the US Attorneys in this country are now the political enforcement arm of the Republican Party. Any US Attorney can now indict a US citizen based on what they "discover" as evidence, thanks to the new FISA laws. How would that happen? With no oversight whatsoever, the surveillance capability of the United States of America can be used against any US citizen.

We now know that at least one judge resigned from the FISA court because of abuses of power. We have clear evidence that the FBI has abused the power of National Security Letters. Now we see that other intelligence agencies can combine that with the most technologically advanced surveillance capabilities in existence. They have the complicity of virtually every telecommunications company in this country and now no reason to comply with the wishes of any company that dissents. So if the full weight of the US government can now be wielded against a US citizen--with no oversight, no check on the overreaching power--what reasonable person could conclude that this system will not be abused?

It's not like there is no history of overreach and abuse. FISA was created out of the findings of the Church Committee in the 1970s, which discovered rampant abuse of surveillance abilities by the Executive Branch for political purposes. The abuse of power is not limited to the Republicans or Democrats. Therefore, we need oversight to keep all of them in line. The FISA court, was there to ensure these basic rules were followed and that there was a check on the power of the Executive should they attempt to collect communications outside of these basic rules.

This has a lot more to do with intimidation of political opponents than it does security. As their grip on the rudder of power slips further, they grow increasingly desperate.

The threat of terror is what is being used to scare you into giving them unprecedented access to the tools they need to intimidate their political enemies. They don't give a damn whether a terrorist kills you or not--if they did, would they really be in Iraq, creating more terrorists? Would they allow the northwest region of Pakistan to become the headquarters of al Qaeda? Would they reduce the numbers of first responders and leave the borders open? Would they spend billions to create a department of "Homeland Security" and then botch the job so completely as to allow this department to become the laughingstock of organized society? DHS can stop your Grandma from bringing a bottle of shampoo on an aircraft but it can't stop the people who test the system from showing, time after time, that the screening process misses guns, knives and bomb materials.

That's called "checks and balances" and your government just flushed that concept, along with your Fourth Amendment rights.

FISA has granted tens of thousands of warrants, blocked about 6 of them, and has served as a check on the power of the Executive to intimidate and collect information on its internal political enemies.

They want you to yawn and say, okay, I'll buy it, and they want you to go back to watching boobies on TV and to stop paying attention.

But they've always had the ability to stop terrorists. Always! And what they want you to do is act all scared and concerned and look the other way while they go about intimidating and marginalizing their political enemies.

Wake up. They don't give a shit about you. They care about holding on to power.

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