Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Amending FISA

The Washington Monthly reported Here's another point related to General Hayden's admission today that the NSA's domestic spying program isn't some kind of dazzling high tech black op, but merely garden variety wiretapping that was done outside normal FISA channels because NSA couldn't meet the "probable cause" standard normally needed to get a warrant issued.

Clinton had several opportunities to get Osama but he passed them up because he did not have the necessary "probably cause" to take him to court. Probable Cause is reasonable when we are talking about what people are doing in this country to other people in this country, but when it comes to terrorists overseas talking to their cells in this country, probable cause should not be required. Even "reasonable cause" is too strict. I think they should go with "possible suspicion" or something like that.
Administration apologists have argued that the White House couldn't seek congressional approval for this program because it utilized super advanced technology that we couldn't risk exposing to al-Qaeda. Even in secret session, they've suggested, Congress is a sieve and the bad guys would have found out what we were up to.
There are some secret aspects to identifying what numbers to track that we don't want out.
But now we know that's not true. This was just ordinary call monitoring, according to General Hayden, and the only problem was that both FISA and the attorney general required a standard of evidence they couldn't meet before issuing a warrant. In other words, the only change necessary to make this program legal was an amendment to FISA modifying the circumstances necessary to issue certain kinds of warrants. This would have tipped off terrorists to nothing. So why didn't they ask Congress for that change?
They asked about that, and were told it probably would not go through, so they found another way.
It certainly would have passed easily. The Patriot Act passed 99-1, after all. Hell, based on what I know about the program, I probably would have voted to approve it as long as it had some reasonable boundaries.
Then encourage the Dems to show how strong they are on security and let them propose an ammendment legalizing what is being done.

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