Friday, August 03, 2007

If anyone is calling anyone else, we need to know why

George Bush, using an endlessly repeated formulation for why he couldn't comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires a warrant for electronic eavesdropping on Americans:

If al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, we need to know why, in order to stop attacks.

In a new White House fact sheet, explaining why George Bush wants a drastic revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act --

Some have suggested that FISA must be reformed, but only to permit collection against certain overseas threats like al Qaeda terrorists. This is unacceptable. There are many threats that confront our Nation, including military, weapons proliferation, and economic, and we must be able to conduct foreign intelligence effectively on all of them.

Notice the scope of the latitude he claims he needs has gone from al Qaeda to just about anything, and that when granted his initial exception, he introduces a demand for far more. As has been clear for a while, it's getting near time to assume any electronic conversation anywhere in the world could fall under the scope of a warrant-free Global War on Terror -- including on Americans, since the argument will inevitably follow that verifying physical location is impossible on the Internet.

UPDATE: Things are getting very strange in the rush to get the new FISA legislation passed. Did the White House lean on their intelligence chief to get him to reject a compromise proposal? They say they did not. But this is a serious bit of business to be transacting in a rush on Friday night.

FINAL UPDATE 5 AUGUST: The White House is apparently claiming that under current arrangements, it needed a warrant to listen in on conversations between evildoers in Iraq --

Administration officials were concerned that the new court restrictions had slowed their ability to eavesdrop on militants in Iraq who were holding three American soldiers in May, according to an Associated Press report on Friday. Asked about the report, Senator Kit Bond, Republican of Missouri, would not discuss specifics, but said, “The inability to collect on foreign targets not only impacts our security in the United States but our military abroad.”

It's weird that no one will ask for clarification of the precise circumstance under which the bad guys in Iraq were using US wires to communicate with each other. US e-mail accounts (gmail, hotmail) perhaps?

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