Skip to comments.What ever happened to the NSA spying furor? (MSNBC Frets News Shift)
Posted on 02/28/2006 4:44:48 PM PST by new yorker 77
WASHINGTON - When the New York Times revealed late last year that the Bush administration was conducting a surveillance program to listen in on American citizens conversations with suspected al Qaida operatives, it sparked a furor.
Some Democrats said President Bush had willfully broken the 1978 law banning warrantless domestic surveillance by ordering eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Moveon.org, the grass-roots Democratic advocacy group, demanded the appointment of special prosecutor to go after the alleged lawbreakers in the Bush administration.
But now, two months later, another furor over a Dubai-based firms acquiring of leases on terminal facilities at several U.S. ports has blown the NSA story right off the front pages.
Spying apparently continues
Yet the NSA apparently continues to eavesdrop on Americans, and Congress seems increasingly likely to open the way to after-the-fact approval of the surveillance in legislation that may reach the Senate floor in the next several weeks.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.msn.com ...
I hope I see that indictments come down for the leakers.
I won't hold my breath.
I wish it would come back. It gave more people a chance to see which side the ratmedia is really on.
Sure do....1998 Anniversary Edition, FLSTS....and you?
Ha!... but you see, now the Dems are the champions of "National Security," and as such, the NSA "scandal" does not fit into their new passion, therefore, the MSM, and every lefty organization must switch gears to "fit with their new role."
Re#21 Nor I. Notwithstanding, hope springs eternal...
When the public quickly realized that the eavesdropping program was geared toward communications between suspected terrorist organizations and possible American collaborators, they decided it was a good thing and at the same time they figured Democrat opposition to it was idiotic.
So now the rats and their allies in the dinosaur liberal newsrooms have "moved on" to a new non-issue. And once again, Americans are beginning to see through the spin as they discover that America has always been, and will continue to be, fully in charge of its own port security.
Somebody get Tom Curry an espresso - - the guy is really slow.
In other words, it's conditional. The Dems got on the band wagon because the COURT covers MORE then just terrorism.
The media picks and chooses what to cover. On the very day this story was published, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the NSA wiretapping program. Here are Senator Leahy's opening remarks.
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy,
Ranking Member, Judiciary Committee
Hearing on "Wartime Executive Power and the NSA's Surveillance Authority II"
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Today's hearing is our second to explore the legality of President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program. On December 17, 2005 - one day after the existence of the program was reported by The New York Times - the President admitted that the Bush-Cheney Administration has engaged in secret wiretapping of ordinary Americans without warrants for more than four years. Seven weeks later, Attorney General Gonzales was called before this Committee and provided unsworn testimony about the program.
That testimony was far from complete and left many important questions unanswered. At that hearing, we had before us the chief legal officer of the United States. He is not the President's legal advisor; he is the American people's lawyer. His sworn duty is to uphold and enforce the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress -- including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which we have amended five times since the September 11 attacks. It seemed reasonable to start by asking him about how his Department of Justice has and will interpret those laws. Also, by starting with legal questions, we avoided raising any operational issues that could conceivably implicate national security concerns. So I asked the Attorney General a simple question: When did the Administration come up with its current theory that the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against al Qaeda - a resolution that says nothing at all about wiretapping -- also authorized secret, warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States? At every opportunity, the Attorney General failed and refused to answer this basic factual question.
The Attorney General was asked several times to clarify the scope of the Bush-Cheney Administration's legal theory of Executive power. If, as they claim, they can ignore FISA's express prohibition of warrantless wiretapping, can they also eavesdrop on purely domestic phone calls? Can they search or electronically bug an American's home or office? Can they comb through Americans' medical records and open first-class mail? Can they suspend the Posse Comitatus Act? These are questions to which Congress and the American people deserve answers. Based on his testimony and persistent refusals to answer responsively, it appears the Attorney General, whose job it is to enforce the laws, has a radically different understanding of the laws than do many of us -- the people's representatives in Congress who wrote the laws. The Attorney General refused to answer questions - even legal and hypothetical questions - but limited his appearance to confirming "those facts the President has publicly confirmed, nothing more." In a last-minute change to his prepared testimony he also followed the path of his predecessor by playing politics on important security matters, hoping to intimidate Senators who asked questions and sought to get to the facts.
Senators from both parties took great care to ask straightforward questions about the program that could be answered without danger to national security. When did the program begin? How many Americans have had their calls and emails intercepted? Has the program led to any arrests? What involvement, if any, has the FISA Court had with the program? Why was the program shut down in 2004, and was its scope changed in 2004? Once again, we got no answers. Attorney General Gonzales refused to answer a simple "yes or no" question regarding the role of telephone companies and ISPs in implementing the program. He asserted that the program was "very narrowly tailored," but he pointedly refused to say whether earlier versions of the program were likewise "narrowly tailored," or whether the President has authorized other, broader secret surveillance programs inside the United States - for example, programs that may involve warrantless physical searches or large-scale data-mining.
In short, we learned almost nothing from our prior hearing. So far as the Attorney General was concerned, any question that was not limited to confirming the current version of the specific program the President described in December was irrelevant or hypothetical, even if it went to the core of the Administration's legal justifications. And any question that was about that program amounted to a request for "operational details" that the American people have no business knowing, even if those questions were confined to the purely historical question of when the program began. Whatever we asked, it was either too relevant or not relevant enough, and either way, we were getting no answers from the Attorney General.
There was, briefly, one crack in the stone wall he erected. It has been reported that senior Department of Justice officials concluded in 2004 that the President's program was illegal and, backed by former Attorney General Ashcroft, insisted that its scope be narrowed. So Chairman Specter asked the Attorney General whether he had any objection to his predecessor testifying before the Committee on this issue. Attorney General Gonzales replied: "I would not." One week later, in a carefully worded about-face, he had an assistant write to Chairman Specter that the Bush-Cheney Administration would not permit any former officials to provide any new information to the Committee. The stone wall was back up.
Attorney General Gonzales' conduct has made the Bush-Cheney Administration's position crystal clear: It claims there is no place for congressional or judicial oversight of any of its activities in any way related to national security in the post-9/11 world. Through stonewalling, steamrolling and intimidation, this Administration is running roughshod over the Constitution and hiding behind inflammatory rhetoric demanding Americans blindly trust every one of its decisions. Just last week we were reminded, again, that they hold to that position even when bipartisan members of Congress raise national security concerns about the approval of a government-owned Dubai company taking over port operations in the United States. There are some striking parallels between the warrantless wiretapping program and approval of the takeover of most of our key ports on the East Coast by a firm controlled by a foreign government that has previous ties to Osama bin Laden, to terrorist financing and to the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology by Ali Khan. In both cases, this obsessively secretive Administration proceeded with action that it must have known would face strong bipartisan opposition and did so without informing Congress or the American people. In both cases, the Administration made no attempt whatsoever to follow even the confidential review processes mandated by specific and express federal statutes: the FISA Court warrant requirement in the wiretapping case, and the 45-day review requirement of the Exon-Florio law in the case of the ports deal. And in both cases, the Bush-Cheney Administration has responded to bipartisan efforts at congressional oversight with bellicose political threats.
Will the Republican Congress fulfill its constitutional duty of providing the checks and balances envisioned by the Framers by engaging in real and effective oversight, or will it continue to abdicate its oversight role in deference to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue?
Chairman Specter has a history of engaging in meaningful, bipartisan oversight and I very much appreciate his efforts thus far to lead a bipartisan quest for straight answers on this illegal domestic surveillance program. I am glad that we are having today's hearing. But we should be clear about what today's hearing is, and is not. It is not an oversight hearing. Through Attorney General Gonzales, the Bush-Cheney Administration has refused to answer oversight questions and refused to allow former officials to answer them. At this point, meaningful oversight of the Government's actions can only be achieved by subpoenas backed by threat of real congressional sanctions if the Bush-Cheney Administration continues to stonewall.
Our hearing today will be an academic panel discussion featuring commentators who have not witnessed or played any role in the program that they are discussing, and who know no more than the very minimal facts about the program that the President has chosen to divulge. This is an important discussion to have to help this Committee, Congress and the American people understand our legal landscape, and what consequences this illegal program has on our system. These are scholars and former government officials with a great deal of expertise in the law or in the intelligence field. I greatly appreciate their analysis, just as I appreciate the analysis of former President Jimmy Carter, former FBI Director William Sessions, conservative columnist George Will, and the many other scholars and former government officials who have concluded that this program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and threatens the constitutional separation of powers. But today's hearing is no substitute for the vigorous and forceful oversight this Congress owes the American people.
The NSA program, and its defense by the administration, raise these questions, which I propose to address below: (1) Does NSA warrantless surveillance violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches? (2) Does the program violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA]? (3) Does the AUMF authorize warrantless surveillance by the NSA? (4) Do the president's inherent powers allow him to ignore FISA? (5) What should be done if the executive branch has acted unlawfully?
My conclusions, as elaborated in the following sections, are: First, the president has some latitude under the "executive Power" and "Commander-in-Chief" Clauses of Article II, even lacking explicit congressional approval, to authorize NSA warrantless surveillance without violating the "reasonableness" requirement of the Fourth Amendment. But second, if Congress has expressly prohibited such surveillance (as it has under FISA), then the statute binds the president unless there are grounds to conclude that the statute does not apply. Third, in the case at hand, there are no grounds for such a conclusion -- that is, neither the AUMF nor the president's inherent powers trump the express prohibition in the FISA statute.
My testimony today addresses only the legality of the NSA program, not the policy question whether the program is necessary and desirable from a national security perspective. If the program is both essential and illegal, then the obvious choices are to change the program so that it complies with the law, or change the law so that it authorizes the program.
Nor do I address, other than to mention in this paragraph, three other constitutional arguments that might be advanced in opposition to warrantless surveillance by the NSA. First, in contravention of the First Amendment, the program may deprive innocent persons of the right to engage freely in phone and email speech. Second, the president may have violated his constitutional obligation to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." Among the laws to be faithfully executed is FISA. No doubt, the president has some discretion in enforcing the law, but not leeway to take actions that the law expressly prohibits. Third, in contravention of the Fifth Amendment, the NSA surveillance program may represent a deprivation of liberty without due process. Liberty, as we know from the Supreme Court's recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas^4, encompasses selected aspects of privacy that are separate from the question whether particular intrusions are reasonable in terms of the Fourth Amendment.
Those concerns are legitimate, but they have not been central to the debate over NSA surveillance, and they are not the focus of the Committee's deliberations or, therefore, of my testimony.
II. Does NSA Warrantless Surveillance Violate the Fourth Amendment?The president has contended that NSA warrantless surveillance does not offend Fourth Amendment protections against "unreasonable" searches. That contention is correct as far as it goes; but it does not go far enough. ... [massive snippage]
Leahy responded to that letter ...
March 1, 2006Hat tip to The JURIST.
The Honorable Alberto Gonzales
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Gonzales:
I write in response to your unusual letter seeking to modify your February 6 testimony that you sent to Chairman Specter yesterday. More than three weeks after the hearing you send the Committee a six-page letter seeking to alter your live testimony. Your letter, in fact, does little to clarify your testimony. Instead, it raises many questions, both factual and also some going to the credibility of your testimony.
At the outset of my questioning I asked when the Bush-Cheney Administration came to the conclusion that the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against al Qaeda also authorized warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States. You never directly answered my question. Now, in your February 28 letter to Chairman Specter, you admit that "the Department's legal analysis has evolved over time." While not yet a direct answer to my question, you have at least indicated that you did not rely on that legal rationalization when the spying program began in 2001. I still wish to know when you concluded that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force authorized the warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States and renew our request for the documents that embody that conclusion.
Of course, you realize the significance of the timing: It will demonstrate that your reliance on an "evolving interpretation" of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force shows it to be after-the-fact legal rationalization rather than the contemporaneous intent underlying the congressional resolution. You will still need to correct or better explain your statements on pages 184 and 187 of the transcript, which you recognize "may give [a] misimpression."
Second are the disturbing suggestions in your February 28 letter that there are other secret programs impinging on the liberties and rights of Americans. Much of your letter is devoted to not providing answers to the questions of a number of us regarding legal justifications for activities beyond those narrowly conceded by you to have already been confirmed by the President. We need to know what other activities affecting Americans' rights you view as justified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Please provide answers to the following questions:
Do other programs of warrantless electronic surveillance exist? Do other programs of warrantless physical searches or mail searches exist? Which agencies run these programs and how long have they been in operation? What legal standards apply to these other programs?
Also, please clarify your clarification of the repeated assertions you made on February 6 that the Department of Justice had not done the legal analysis as to whether it could intercept purely domestic communications of persons associated with al Qaeda. Has the Department done such an analysis since September 11, 2001? If so, what did the Department conclude?
Your continued refusal to answer these questions is a source of great concern. Likewise, the indication in your letter that your Department has conducted additional legal rationalizations and "analysis beyond the January 19^th paper" make your production of the legal opinions to the Senate Judiciary Committee all the more important.
At the February 6 hearing you were confronted with your January 2001 testimony from your confirmation hearing, which appeared to many Senators to have been misleading. I expect that your letter yesterday was an attempt to provide some defense to a charge that you misled the Committee, again, in your testimony on February 6. You seek to add qualifiers and to hedge already vague answers about the shifting legal analysis for the President's domestic spying program without judicial approval and about the scope of activities undertaken secretly based on your expansive interpretation of inherent powers of the unitary executive not based on statutory authorities.
It is no secret that the Department of Justice has exhibited a disturbingly arrogant pattern of unresponsiveness to questions that I and other Democratic Senators have posed on many issues in the past. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight of this Administration in order to ensure its accountability to all Americans. Indeed, the Democratic members of the Committee are still waiting for answers to questions we posed following your February 6^th hearing that were due yesterday. I look forward to your prompt reply to this inquiry, as well as your overdue answers to the Committee.
Ranking Democratic Member
The NSA issue is perking pretty HOT, below the media's primary radar.
Early ruling on spying?
04:48 PM | Lyle Denniston | Friday, March 10, 2006
Even as Republicans in the Senate and the White House work on legislation to supply a new legal basis for the Bush Administration's "terrorist surveillance program," two advocacy groups have moved to get prompt rulings in federal courts that the electronic eavesdropping that reaches Americans is invalid -- and would be unconstitutional even if a new law were enacted. The maneuver could mean that the controversy would reach the Supreme Court sooner.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which launched parallel lawsuits against the domestic spying on Jan. 17 in Detroit and New York, on Thursday filed motions for summary judgment in those cases -- in other words, motions to get an early ruling on the program as a legal matter, without waiting for a trial to explore the facts of the surveillance. A summary judgment motion could be granted only if there were no dispute over key facts. The two groups are arguing that the Administration's vigorous public defense of the program and officials' widespread public discussion of the program's rationale and scope mean that the essential facts are already clear, and are undisputed. President Bush's own comments, beginning with his radio address right after the program's existence was disclosed by The New York Times, form a key part of the factual record, as do statements and testimony from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
The two groups represent journalists, attorneys and others who have frequent contact by telephone or e-mail with foreign individuals or organizations, and have been forced by revelations of the domestic spying to curtail those contacts, or find more expensive ways to communicate.
The ACLU motion, filed in ACLU, et al., v. National Security Agency, et al. (docket 06-10204) in the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, can be found here [http://www.aclu.org/images/nsaspying/asset_upload_file640_24453.pdf]. The CCR motion, filed in Center for Constitutional Rights, et al., v. Bush, et al. (06-313), be found here [http://www.ccr-ny.org/v2/legal/govt_misconduct/docs/NSA_3906SummaryJudgmentbrief3906.pdf].
The Justice Department has indicated that it will oppose granting summary judgment.
The new motions by the advocacy groups make the argument that the domestic spying program, conducting without court-approved warrants, violate two federal laws, violates separation of powers principles because it exceeds presidential authority and violates limits set by Congress, and violates free speech rights under the First Amendment and privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment.
The filings take little account of the efforts now unfolding in Congress, especially the Senate, to validate the existing program. The CCR brief includes this footnote: "Plaintiffs are aware of news reports that some Senators have discussed legislation that would amend FISA to permit electronic surveillance without a warrant. We cannot speculate about what form any such legislation might take, or whether it will be passed by Congress. We do, however, underscore that the First and Fourth Amendments set limits on government power, whether authorized by Congress or not." The ACLU brief, in text, makes the same substantive point: "...regardless of whether the program is prohibited or authorized by Congress, any government interception of the private phone calls and emails of Americans must comply with the Fourth and First Amendments."
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.