Jan 27 2006
The Federal Government is a lumbering giant that is impossible to re-direct most of the time. War is one of the few instances where corrections can finally be imposed rapidly. The problem is the changes may spring back to their previous, inept conditions if there is not enough time to establish the new norm. We face that with the Patriot Act and the NSA program – liberals so obsessed with political power they are ready to put us all at risk again for short term gain.
In the NSA-FISA dust up I had wondered what was the big change Bush wrought post 9-11? It seemed inconceivable that the NSA was not monitoring our enemies and collecting communications with people in the US. But as I wrote in my recent round up the only thing that appeared to change was specific leads being passed to the FBI, who would check them out and then take the high priority leads to FISA for domestic surveillance. The only complaint by the left leaning FISA justuices was ‘tainting’ the FISA process. The complaint by the FBI was an avalanche of leads.
Now I think I see what the big change was. It seems minor in the ‘real world’, but in DC and within the imperial federal bureaucracy this change was momentous. I found it in the 1976 Senate Committee report I referenced earlier:
4. “Incidental” Intercepts of Americans’ Communications
Although NSA does not now target communications of American citizens, groups, or organizations for interception by placing their names on watch lists, other selection criteria are used which result in NSA’s reviewing many communications to, from, or about an American. The initial interception of a stream of communications is analogous to a vacuum cleaner: NSA picks up all communications carried over a specific link that it is monitoring. The combination of this technology and the use of words to select communications of interest results in NSA analysts reviewing the international messages of American citizens, groups, and organizations for foreign intelligence.
The interception and subsequent processing of communications are conducted in a manner that minimizes the number of unwanted messages. Only after an analyst determines that the content of a message meets a legitimate requirement will it be disseminated to the interested intelligence agencies. In practically all cases, the name of an American citizen, group, or organization is deleted by NSA before a message is disseminated.
Internal NSA guidelines ensure that the decision to disseminate an intercepted communication is now made on the basis of the importance of the foreign intelligence it contains, not because a United States citizen, group, or organization is involved. This procedure is, of course, subject to change by internal NSA directives.
Emphasis mine. I think we finally have found the big change Bush ordered post 9-11. Now, when leads are detected overseas, the name or identity of the US based contact is passed along to the FBI. That explains the wave of leads on the FBI, the ‘tainting’ complaints by some FISA judges and the resistance by the establishment in general.
The Gorelick Wall in all its essence was meant to strengthen the barriers between intelligence and law enforcement. This barrier existed in 1976, and after going the other direction for almost a quarter of a century culminating in the Gorelick Wall, to then go back and undo this one simple process must have seemed like the entire legal system had collapsed for the insanely paranoid liberals. This little change would have seemed enormous. But it is so obvious too! How else to make sure contacts in the US are not final preparations for an attack. Just think about the argument being made to undo this and what it means?
Think about it. That one change, which seems obvious and simple to us in the ‘real world’, would seem like rolling back protections to a time even before FISA and the Church Committee – since this was the process prior to then.
Democrats are going to be stunned to find out that the origination of the NSA’watch list’ (which I believe is a legitimate privacy and 4th amendment concern) go back to the Kennedy’s (from the above link):
1. Early Period: 1960-1967
The exact details of the origin of the watch list activity are unclear. Testimony from NSA employees indicates that the early 1960s marked the beginning of watch lists and the inclusion of names of American citizens. According to a senior NSA official, “the term watch list had to do with a list of names of people, places or events that a customer would ask us to have our analysts keep in mind as they scan large volumes of material.” 28
Originally these lists were used for two purposes: (1) monitoring travel to Cuba and other communist countries; and (2) protecting the President and other high Government officials.
Sadly, the effort did not succeed in John F Kennedy’s case. But the Cuba connection makes sense for the Kennedy administration.
Another snippet from this 1976 report which strengthens President Bush’s claims regarding the war on terror
3. Termination of Drug Activity
Three months after the CIA monitoring was initiated, CIA General Counsel Lawrence Houston issued an opinion which stated that the intercepts may violate Section 605 of the Communications Act of 1934. 73 This law, as amended in 1968, prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of any private communication of an American citizen to another party, unless undertaken pursuant to the President’s constitutional authority to collect foreign intelligence, which is crucial to the security of the United States. 74 Since intercepted messages were provided to BNDD, Houston concluded that the activity was for law enforcement purposes, which is also outside the CIA’s charter. As a result of this memorandum, the CIA suspended its collection. NSA, which has no charter, continued to monitor these links for drug information.
NSA Deputy Director Buffham testified that after the CIA decided to stop the United States-South American drug monitoring, NSA began to review the legality and appropriateness of its efforts in support of BNDD. Although NSA is not prohibited by statute or executive directive from disseminating information that may pertain to law enforcement, it has always viewed its sole mission as the collection and dissemination of foreign intelligence. A senior NSA official testified: “We do not understand our mission to be one of supporting an agency with a law enforcement responsibility.”
Clearly if the monitoring was targetted to national security and time of war, there woul be no issue. Which means we have no issue today.