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Hullabaloo


Monday, December 19, 2005

 
Efficiency Expert

Atrios and First-Draft have posts up highlighting one of the most egregious explanations for the NSA spying from this morning's briefing by Gonzales and NSA chief General Hayden: they didn't ask congress for permission because they were told by "certain" congressmen that they couldn't get it passed.


Gonzales:...We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.


That's not Brownie It's not even Karl Rove. That's the Attorney General of the United States talking.

But there's more:

Q General, when you discussed the emergency powers, you said, agility is critical here. And in the case of the emergency powers, as I understand it, you can go in, do whatever you need to do, and within 72 hours just report it after the fact. And as you say, these may not even last very long at all. What would be the difficulty in setting up a paperwork system in which the logs that you say you have the shift supervisors record are simply sent to a judge after the fact? If the judge says that this is not legitimate, by that time probably your intercept is over, wouldn't that be correct?

GENERAL HAYDEN: What you're talking about now are efficiencies. What you're asking me is, can we do this program as efficiently using the one avenue provided to us by the FISA Act, as opposed to the avenue provided to us by subsequent legislation and the President's authorization.

Our operational judgment, given the threat to the nation that the difference in the operational efficiencies between those two sets of authorities are such that we can provide greater protection for the nation operating under this authorization.

Q But while you're getting an additional efficiency, you're also operating outside of an existing law. If the law would allow you to stay within the law and be slightly less efficient, would that be --

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALEZ: I guess I disagree with that characterization. I think that this electronic surveillance is within the law, has been authorized. I mean, that is our position. We're only required to achieve a court order through FISA if we don't have authorization otherwise by the Congress, and we think that that has occurred in this particular case.


Yes, the Bill of Rights is hell on efficiency. We really should do something about that.

They knew they were circumventing the law as written, that the congress would not agree to change it and they used a very dicey theory of presidential infallibility in wartime. They are saying that the president is re-authorizing "his program" every 45 days solely so that shift supervisors don't have to waste time with paperwork.


The original NY Times article said
:


Several senior government officials say that when the special operation first began, there were few controls on it and little formal oversight outside the N.S.A. The agency can choose its eavesdropping targets and does not have to seek approval from Justice Department or other Bush administration officials. Some agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation, a former senior Bush administration official said. Before the 2004 election, the official said, some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president.


I find that interesting, don't you?


In mid-2004, concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it.

For the first time, the Justice Department audited the N.S.A. program, several officials said. And to provide more guidance, the Justice Department and the agency expanded and refined a checklist to follow in deciding whether probable cause existed to start monitoring someone's communications, several officials said.


Now, what do you suppose these "concerns" were all about?

Here's a hint:

Those involved in the program also said that the N.S.A.'s eavesdroppers might need to start monitoring large batches of numbers all at once, and that it would be impractical to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first, according to the officials.


I would guess that these large batches of numbers were very large indeed. So large that it would be "inefficient" go to the FISA court and seek permission after the fact.

I would further guess that these large batches of numbers include a whole shitload of Americans who have nothing to do with al Qaeda. And since they had to suspend some areas of the program in 2004, I would suspect that those numbers include some people who are of interest to the administration for reasons other than terrorism.

If I were one of those "shift supervisors" (especially if I was one who had worried about John Kerry becoming president) I'd get myself a lawyer.



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