Jan 20 2006
Mort Kondracke apparently got a chance to sit down with Michael Chertoff, Sec of Homeland Defense, to discuss the NSA’s normal process of monitoring international calls, and the process for those leads to go to FISA. There are some very pertinent points in Kondracke’s conclusions:
What I understood Chertoff to be saying is that when data mining produces evidence of a terrorist contact, the government will then seek a FISA warrant to actually tap the person’s phones or “undertake other kinds of activity in order to disrupt something.”
As legal authority for the program, Chertoff cited a 2002 decision of the FISA Court of Review, which is one level down from the U.S. Supreme Court, holding that a president has “inherent [constitutional] authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.”
“We take it for granted that the president does have that authority,” the court said, “and, assuming it is so, FISA could not encroach on the president’s constitutional powers.”
Chertoff also said that the courts have given wide latitude to the government in controlling and monitoring activity across international borders. All reports on the NSA activity assert that it’s limited to international communications.
What is clear is that the NSA-FISA process is working as we all expected it should, and the claims of targeting people in the US for surveillance without a warrant are unfounded at this stage. Over and over again the administration has been clear the focus was international calls, focused on targets overseas, which could legally include contacts here in the US. Monitoring a call doesn’t require legal authority specific to both sides of a call. Only one side needs to be legally authorized, and international calls are authorized outside FISA as long as the target it overseas.
Now they only question is how long will it take for the American People to understand this was a propaganda effort by political consultants. The careful wording of the claims of administration malfeasance which avoided saying the warrantless surveillance was illegal, the lack of correction by the media when people jumped to the conclusion that NSA was going around FISA when their sources never made such a claim, all this careful message handling to Clintonesque levels point to a PR campaign. Not a whistleblower.
So we need to help get the word out about what is not happening in the NSA-FISA issue, and find out who is orchestrating this propaganda that included exposing a highly classified program. Those are the illegal acts requiring justice.
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