Feb 21 2006

Al Jazeera Understands The NSA Story

Published by at 8:03 pm under All General Discussions

Why is it Al Jazeera understands the NSA-FISA issue better than our own media? OK, I apparently have entered the Twilight Zone:

But the fact is that domestic surveillance inside the United States has explosive potential. The conflict is constitutional in character, impinges on protection provided citizens against unlawful search and seizure and pits the power of the presidency against that of Congress. The only good news is that this conflict, for the moment, is less one of partisan politics with Democrats taking on Republicans and vice versa than a clash of authority between two major branches of government over the Constitution and what constitutes unjust search. Understanding how and why a dangerous collision could occur provides a critical insight in better understanding America and its system of government.

The Bush administration rested its decision to authorise this surveillance for four reasons. First, it argued that the Constitution gave the president virtually unlimited power in his capacity of “commander in chief” in time of war, superseding the FISA and the Fourth Amendment.

Second, it argued that the Congressional Resolution of September 2001 to “use all necessary and appropriate force” in responding to al Qaeda attacks applied to all forms of electronic surveillance.

Third, it cited the Supreme Court case “Hamdi v Rumsfeld” in which an American citizen captured in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban could be detained as an “enemy combatant” and thus not be afforded his Constitutional safeguards as evidence that the President had extended powers under the resolution authorising force to authorise this surveillance.

Fourth, the administration argued that technology in the form of cell phones, the Internet and fibre optic transmission lines rendered FISA obsolete. As a result, the surveillance ordered was not covered by FISA, at least in the White House view. And, what it did not say publicly was that about a third of all international calls are routed through the United States, raising the question of whether tapping into these sources was also outside FISA.

Finally, the president and his leading intelligence and law enforcement officials claimed that proper oversight was being conducted by lawyers in the Justice Department, the White House and NSA and that the president re-approved the surveillance programme every 45 days. However, no outside oversight by another branch of government was sought and only the head FISA judge was aware of the programme.

With Congress still debating what to do, it is difficult to know what lies ahead. The White House has exerted significant pressure on the Senate Judiciary Committee not to take further action on terrorist surveillance. At the time this article goes to press, after being more extensively briefed on the programme by the administration, Congress seems to have had its appetite for overhauling the NSA surveillance programme curtailed.

The most sensible solution is for Congress to pass a law that gives the oversight responsibility to the FISA Court for day-to-day matters regarding surveillance and to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees for broader review. So far the White House has resisted this compromise preferring to remain committed to the broader view of presidential power. If the impasse remains, it is possible that the President will declare FISA unconstitutional and an undue infringement on presidential authority. Should that occur, the case would presumably go to the Supreme Court.

I do not agree with much of what is said in this article. But it is the closest thing to reality I have seen in ANY news media reporting. Down the rabbit hole it seems…..

One response so far

One Response to “Al Jazeera Understands The NSA Story”

  1. az redneck says:

    the last two sentances in the last paragraph would settle the matter!