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Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

Old 12-16-05, 08:58 AM
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Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...121600021.html

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying
Post-9/11 Order Bypassed Special Court

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005; Page A01

President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night.

The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials. Authorities, including a former NSA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said.

But the program's ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the Times.

The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

The White House made no comment last night. A senior official reached by telephone said the issue was too sensitive to talk about. None of several press officers responded to telephone or e-mail messages.

Congressional sources familiar with limited aspects of the program would not discuss any classified details but made it clear there were serious questions about the legality of the NSA actions. The sources, who demanded anonymity, said there were conditions under which it would be possible to gather and retain information on Americans if the surveillance were part of an investigation into foreign intelligence.

But those cases are supposed to be minimized. The sources said the actual work of the NSA is so closely held that it is difficult to determine whether it is acting within the law.

The revelations come amid a fierce congressional debate over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Patriot Act granted the FBI new powers to conduct secret searches and surveillance in the United States.

Most of the powers covered under that law are overseen by a secret court that meets at Justice Department headquarters and must approve applications for wiretaps, searches and other operations. The NSA's operation is outside that court's purview, and according to the Times report, the Justice Department may have sought to limit how much that court was made aware of NSA activities.

Public disclosure of the NSA program also comes at a time of mounting concerns about civil liberties over the domestic intelligence operations of the U.S. military, which have also expanded dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks.

For more than four years, the NSA tasked other military intelligence agencies to assist its broad-based surveillance effort directed at people inside the country suspected of having terrorist connections, even before Bush signed the 2002 order that authorized the NSA program, according to an informed U.S. official.

The effort, which began within days after the attacks, has consisted partly of monitoring domestic telephone conversations, e-mail and even fax communications of individuals identified by the NSA as having some connection to al Qaeda events or figures, or to potential terrorism-related activities in the United States, the official said.

It has also involved teams of Defense Intelligence Agency personnel stationed in major U.S. cities conducting the type of surveillance typically performed by the FBI: monitoring the movements and activities -- through high-tech equipment -- of individuals and vehicles, the official said.

The involvement of military personnel in such tasks was provoked by grave anxiety among senior intelligence officials after the 2001 suicide attacks that additional terrorist cells were present within U.S. borders and could only be discovered with the military's help, said the official, who had direct knowledge of the events.

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies at George Washington University, said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity.

The law governing clandestine surveillance in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, prohibits conducting electronic surveillance not authorized by statute. A government agent can try to avoid prosecution if he can show he was "engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the law.

"This is as shocking a revelation as we have ever seen from the Bush administration," said Martin, who has been sharply critical of the administration's surveillance and detention policies. "It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans."

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she is "dismayed" by the report.

"It's clear that the administration has been very willing to sacrifice civil liberties in its effort to exercise its authority on terrorism, to the extent that it authorizes criminal activity," Fredrickson said.

The NSA activities were justified by a classified Justice Department legal opinion authored by John C. Yoo, a former deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that congressional approval of the war on al Qaeda gave broad authority to the president, according to the Times.

That legal argument was similar to another 2002 memo authored primarily by Yoo, which outlined an extremely narrow definition of torture. That opinion, which was signed by another Justice official, was formally disavowed after it was disclosed by the Washington Post.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos would not comment on the report last night.

Staff writers Dafna Linzer and Peter Baker contributed to this report.
So, now the NSA can evesdrop on your conversation, and then imprision you as an enemy combatant with absolutely no review ever.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:19 AM
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Interesting, isn't it, how the New York Times, who released this story to everybody, sat on this story for an entire year, and only now pulls it out the day after the Iraqi elections in some ham-fisted attempt to push it off the front of the news cycle.

They aren't even trying to conceal how they play the news anymore. Anybody remember the "biggest story of the year" last year - the Ammo dump? That came out the week before the election, and the press was all over it, until the election magically happened, Bush won, and they completely dropped it - their attempt to get Bush out didn't work, so the "biggest story of the year" was completely dropped.

Also, this is only on International communications and Congress was told about it long ago. These actions have also thwarted at least two terrorist attacks. But lets see what's going on here and get all the facts - it could be something large, or it could be nothing. I don't want the Government spying on citizens unless there's good reason.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:20 AM
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Old 12-16-05, 09:29 AM
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"It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans."
Is this even legal for him to do?
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Old 12-16-05, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by joeblow69
Is this even legal for him to do?
"Classified legal opinions" say it is, but I doubt it.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:33 AM
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Having the NSA spy on our own citizens is troubling.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by joeblow69
Is this even legal for him to do?
Ah, that's the question.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by natesfortune
I don't want the Government spying on citizens unless there's good reason.


I certainly hope good reason = probable cause.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
I certainly hope good reason = probable cause.
Exactly. I will agree that if there is probably cause I have little problem with this.

If probable cause is simply someone being a Democrat, well then believe it or not I have a problem with that.

But if someone is seen with a suspected terrorist funder for example, yes to me that is probable cause.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:45 AM
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Isn't it only Executive Orders that prevent the NSA from doing this sort of thing?
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Old 12-16-05, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Isn't it only Executive Orders that prevent the NSA from doing this sort of thing?
I think one could say the Constitution should stop the NSA from doing this sort of thing.
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Old 12-16-05, 10:43 AM
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He should have just used the IRS like the previous administration.

If it was on international communications and had probable cause, then I don't have a problem with it. If the previous admin's justice department had let the defense dept. Able Danger program communicate Atta's name and whereabouts before 9/11, it might have prevented it.
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Old 12-16-05, 10:45 AM
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Old 12-16-05, 11:38 AM
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Interesting, isn't it, how the New York Times, who released this story to everybody, sat on this story for an entire year, and only now pulls it out the day after the Iraqi elections in some ham-fisted attempt to push it off the front of the news cycle.
Personally I would venture a guess it's timed more for the Patriot Act than the election, although you make a good argument.

I haven't looked at the details yet but I thought it was generally known the NSA is into signals intel and frankly I just assumed they were doing this sort of thing anyway (atleast general scanning, as I said I haven't read through the articles to see how specific they were getting). If they really have gone beyond what is legally allowed the situation should be dealt w/. If this is more splitting legal hairs though then maybe the laws/statutes should be more definatively defined.


So, now the NSA can evesdrop on your conversation, and then imprision you as an enemy combatant with absolutely no review ever.
Not sure where you are getting this conclusion from? From what I heard on the Sentate floor today the FISA court has refused to allow evidence gathered in this manner to be used to bring people in. Unlike in the movies it's my understanding (and maybe I'm wrong ) the NSA doesn't have an "operations" branch so they have no power of detainment in the first place.
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Old 12-16-05, 11:46 AM
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Someone please explain to me how this action by the President would be anything but unconstitutional? I applaud the NSA people who refused to be involved...takes guts to say "no" to the President of the United States.
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Old 12-16-05, 11:56 AM
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Someone please explain to me how this action by the President would be anything but unconstitutional?
IMHO it's kind of hard to say one way or the other w/o knowing more details. Alot of people are certainly catagorizing it that way, what the truth is though I'm not sure.
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Old 12-16-05, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by nemein
Personally I would venture a guess it's timed more for the Patriot Act than the election, although you make a good argument.

I haven't looked at the details yet but I thought it was generally known the NSA is into signals intel and frankly I just assumed they were doing this sort of thing anyway (atleast general scanning, as I said I haven't read through the articles to see how specific they were getting). If they really have gone beyond what is legally allowed the situation should be dealt w/. If this is more splitting legal hairs though then maybe the laws/statutes should be more definatively defined.
You were under the impression that they were listening in on American citizens without a warrant? This is okay with you?


Not sure where you are getting this conclusion from? From what I heard on the Sentate floor today the FISA court has refused to allow evidence gathered in this manner to be used to bring people in. Unlike in the movies it's my understanding (and maybe I'm wrong ) the NSA doesn't have an "operations" branch so they have no power of detainment in the first place.
The point is they never went to the FISA court. They were doing surveillance with no oversight whatsoever. The Administration also claims the ability to detain "enemy combatants", including citizens, indefinitely without trial or court review. Combining the two is not a large leap. The NSA doesn't have to actually do the detention.
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Old 12-16-05, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
Through coordinated action between the Democracts and the media under its control, the Left is sytematically dismantling and rendering ineffective *every* tactic and resource that we have against the terrorists, the latest example of which is this leaking of sensitive information at just the right moment to enable the defeat of the vote on the Patriot Act.
Let's say what you allege is indeed the case. Is the media making this up? If not, isn't the oversight of the executive branch's powers a relevant issue to the Patriot Act being passed? If the Bush Administration didn't want this kind of controversy, maybe they shouldn't have told the NSA to listen in on the phone calls of Americans without obtaining a warrant. Or maybe they shouldn't have sed National Security Letters like they were going out of style for such "targetted" reasons such as obtaining the name of everyone staying in Las Vegas over a weekend.
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Old 12-16-05, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
Some Dems and the Leftist media are engaged in a conspiracy to enable the terrorists to defeat the US so they can blame it on Bush's policies and regain power. I don't believe a Democracy can survive being hijacked in this way and have its liberties abused for the ultimate benefit of those who have taken to the battlefield to destroy it.

Do you hear the sound of mighty footsteps drawing near? That's the sound of History approaching...
Do you seriously believe there's a massive conspiracy among Democrats to let the terrorists defeat the US? It's possible to disagree with the way one party approaches a problem without being an evil menace out to destroy the country.
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Old 12-16-05, 01:07 PM
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One thing is for certain - this information released today certainly did not help the administration's push for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
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Old 12-16-05, 01:09 PM
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*inserts obligatory Ben Franklin quote*
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Old 12-16-05, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
Some Dems and the Leftist media are engaged in a conspiracy to enable the terrorists to defeat the US so they can blame it on Bush's policies and regain power. I don't believe a Democracy can survive being hijacked in this way and have its liberties abused for the ultimate benefit of those who have taken to the battlefield to destroy it.
Some posts on the forum never cease to amaze me.

I for one long for the day when a jihadist cuts off the head of myself or a family member.
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Old 12-16-05, 01:15 PM
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Even if it was done, and apparently it was, is it a violation of the law?
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Old 12-16-05, 01:16 PM
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You were under the impression that they were listening in on American citizens without a warrant? This is okay with you?
I was under the impression that they were listening to all extranational traffic (or atleast as much as they could given tech limits) using algorithms that flag certain types of conversations. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit though. Am I ok w/ it is another story. It would be nice to live in a world where these types of things weren't needed. To think this is such a world is a bit idealistic. That's why I think the laws should be clearly defined and agreed upon, instead of all the wiggle room we frequently find in such things, before these things come up in this manner.

Frankly I can't say I'm really ok w/ it nor do I find myself outraged by it. It is what it is, the admin is under pressure to make sure something like 9/11 doesn't happen again. To do so they are trying various techniques, which frequently skirt/push the bounds of the law. I suspect as long as terrorism is still an issue future admins are going to do the same sorts of things. What we really need is for the various branches of the Gov't to start to get their act together and hammer some of these details out instead of both political sides (in all branches) continually playing partisan politics.
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Old 12-16-05, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Even if it was done, and apparently it was, is it a violation of the law?
Realistically that's not really important anymore... the hype/spin machine has gone into action and by the end of the day the counter spin will kick in. The headlines of today are the things people are going to remember.
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