Sunday, December 18, 2005

Were the warrantless wiretaps legal? 

By the best reading of the FISA my little non-law school educated brain can muster, the wiretaps were not legal. They don't bother me, but unless I am missing something, I cannot make an intellectually honest argument that FISA allows warrantless wiretapping on US persons who are not agents of a foreign government.

Prior to the fall of the Taliban, I think the argument could reasonably be made. But when the Taliban fell, Al Qaeda became an extragovernmental agency. You know, like Halliburton. That said, I also don't believe that if you're so tight with Khalid Sheikh "Homeslice" Mohammed that he's got your cell phone on speed dial and you don't deliver falafels for a living, you don't exactly have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

That said, it appears to me that the Administration crossed the statutory line.

Glenn Greenwald links to the relevant statutes and makes the best and most complete case I've seen. I've already noticed that he's right about the selective quoting allegations - rightie bloggers are cherrypicking the statute like you wouldn't believe. I've already seen bloggers linking to the FISA section authorizing limited powers to the president while omitting the nearby (read: on the same SCREEN) paragraph that specifically requires that there be no substantial likelihood that a US person be a party to an intercepted conversation.

The Administration should immediately pursue warrants on all persons currently subject to monitoring on the basis of suspected links with Al Qaeda, and we should all get back to the business of killing or capturing terrorists.

The administration should petition Congress to change the statute to extend the president's limited authority already granted under FISA to include known international terrorist organizations, in addition to agents controlled by a foreign government. FISA does not appear to have adequately forseen the rise of nonstate organizations as significant threats to national security. Which is pretty pathetic when you think about it, because all those people writing superhero comics and cartoons back in the 1940s-1960s sure did!

Splash, out


The wiretaps' legality would only be an issue if the information gathered was used in a trail as evidence. This isn't the case, we're prosecuting a war not a court case.
I don't care if they were legal or not - I think the Pres. was trying his best to protect us. Instead of hopping so violently on the Pres., looks to me like "investigative reporters" should be trying to find the traitor who leaked the info. Seems nobody cares much about traitors nowdays. I do!
I think this is another case of custom smacked in the face by reality. I can just hear all the members of the British Parliment hear, hearing about those nasty colonists that would fire on the British Army from cover instead of facing them in ranks on an open field like gentlemen. How "unsportsman like." AlQ and their ilk know our laws and customs and know how to make use of them to hide their activities. Seems that the administration was trying to find some reasonable middle-ground between trampling our laws and allowing the bad guys to run free on our soil. How many of us would react the same way if we were in W's shoes? How many would place our citizens at greater risk because we felt our laws were sancrosinct? How many of you have NEVER broken the law when to do so in a particular case made more sense to you? Note that the administration didn't attempt to hide their actions from Congress. Hey, I've fessed-up after the fact on several occasions. It's trying to hide what you're doing that would upset me.
I believe in a 2000 case Government vs. Osama, that Clinton argued that Al Qaeda was a foreign power and prevailed...

so this is all BS. The taps were legal.

If they weren't the FISA judge would have told the government when he/she reviewed them, no?
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