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The war over warrantless wiretapping


Opponents of warrantless wiretapping by the Bush Administration are using Sen. Sam Brownback as proof that the issue is bipartisan.[(Scripps Howard commentary) Some Republicans not buying spying:][1] When challenged, the Bush administration's reflexive response is: We know best, and none of your business. Dressed up in legalese, that was basically Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' response to why the administration conducts warrantless wiretapping of U.S. residents' communications overseas when the law and the Constitution seem to say it cannot. This time a skeptical bloc of committee Republicans the chairman, Arlen Specter, Pa.; Lindsey Graham, S.C.; Mike DeWine, Ohio; and Sam Brownback, Kan. wasn't buying it.[(New York Times commentary) The Art of Saying Nothing:][2] Mr. Bush clearly sees no limit to his powers. But even Bush loyalists on the Senate panel seemed at least faintly troubled. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas said it would be simple to amend the wiretapping law if it's too confining. [(Christian Science Monitor) Senate toughens scrutiny of wiretapping:][3] At the root of congressional worries about the NSA surveillance case is the prospect that such broad interpretations of presidential powers could last well into the future. "We could be in this war on terror for decades," says Sen. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas.Sen. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has defended the administration on the issue.Other links today:Sam Brownback links[(AP) Brownback at Coretta Scott King Funeral:][4] Sen. Sam Brownback was among a group of 13 U.S. senators who attended the funeral of Coretta Scott King on Tuesday. The Kansas Republican and other lawmakers flew on a military aircraft to Atlanta for the funeral and memorial service, which was attended by a host of dignitaries, including President Bush and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Brownback called Mrs. King a role model for people working toward racial reconciliation in the United States.How to contact As always, you can find information to contact members of the Kansas congressional delegation [here.][5] [1]: http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/news/editorial/13819246.htm [2]: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/opinion/08wed1.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin [3]: http://abcnews.go.com/International/CSM/story?id=1590895 [4]: http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/13813962.htm [5]: http://ljworld.com/extra/where_to_write.html#fed


Alyosha 12 years, 3 months ago

And just today, to reinforce that opposition to this Bush administration action is not "partisan":

"A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program."

It's only the Bush administration and its Republican allies in the media who've mischaracterized this principled opposition as "partisan," despite ample, easily findable evidence to the contrary.


southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Has everyone forgotten Sept 11? This wiretapping is necessary for our own security!! If Osama is calling me, I want the government to listen in.

staff04 12 years, 3 months ago

Southdakotan seems to subscribe to the same school of thought as those who said, "If you aren't doing anything wrong, then why does it matter if the government listens?"

So I guess you would submit to a warrantless body cavity search too because if you aren't doing anything wrong why does it matter?

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Seems you have something to hide "staff04"......

I defended our country in the military during/after Sept 11th....I never want to go through that ever again. We should always feel safe on our own soil.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

I certainly haven't forgotten September 11.

I so very much haven't forgotten it that I am sickened and appalled just a little bit more every time someone uses the tragic deaths of several thousand people as a political tool to justify infringing on the very things that make this country worth living in.

There IS a law that allowed him to find out if Osama is calling you, southdakotan. It's called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. All it wanted was one teensy little thing - that within three days of the wiretap, President Bush needed to apply to a secret court (with, I might add, a better track record of maintaining secrecy than the CIA) for a warrant, which would have made it all legal and aboveboard. Instead, he has decided he is above the law of the land. The last time people who lived on what is now US soil were governed according to the notion that the head of government was not subject to the laws of the land, his name was also George. Not all Georges are like that, though, because one of the primary reasons the Presidency takes the form it does today is because of the insistence of yet another George, who deliberately limited the power of the office.

Southdakotan, you should be ashamed for using tragedy to cloud and obscure the very real issue that the President may have broken the laws of this nation - laws representing the structured protection of rights and freedoms that hundreds of thousands of people have willingly sacrificed their lives to ensure the sanctity of. For me, November 11 is a little more meaningful than September 11. I have family members who have fallen in wartime, and I really couldn't face their memories if I just threw away the things they died for because I got scared of the big bad world and wanted someone to reassure me I was safe.

Becky 12 years, 3 months ago

Warrantless wire taps do not make me feel safe. When we give up liberty under the guise of fear we do not deserve freedom. So you fought for nothing southdakotan.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago


I fought for NOTHING!!! I guess that makes you nothing.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Does anyone care the "google" (a private company) can monitor everything we do?

james bush 12 years, 3 months ago

Bush is the devil and he going to send all liberals to hell.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years, 3 months ago

We send our soldiers to defend our freedoms, but then we dismantle them at home. Thank goodness southdakotan wasn't around in 1776. "Remember the Boston Massacre; the British will kill us if we declare Independence." I'd rather die in a terrorist attack than give up our rights. Otherwise, the terrorist have won. No one is saying Bush shouldn't wiretap terrorists, but how do you know that Bush is only wiretapping terrorist. He could be tapping political opponents or his daughter's boyfriends. If we don't have the checks and balances, we might as well have a dictator. I guess, southdakotan would be safe in his bed if we had a dictator. Don't tell me you are supporting our troops, if you letting the terrorist win by allowing our government more control than it should have. Have the guts to fight for your country, whether you're in the military or not.

Becky 12 years, 3 months ago

You are the one who thinks it is ok for the goverment to walk all over our rights that so many did fight for and died for. You are the one who should feel like nothing. It is my right to question my goverment and I think that Bush is wrong.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Becky, finally, we agree on something....it is your right to question our government and isn't it wonderful we live in a free country where this can occur. On the flip side, it is my right to support our government and I believe in our President.

Dorothyhr....what have you done for your country? If you have spent time in the military or pushing for reform in this country, then I will not question you. But, if your only contribution is worrying about your personal life, than don't question me about my commitments.

chzypoof1 12 years, 3 months ago

I entirely agree southdakotan. Some people, especially on these forums, forget that people like you, and my family fight for their freedom just to POST on this forum. Protecting us from terrorism, even if it involved wire-tapping our phones, is a necessary evil. Get over yourself. Everyone hates GW because he stands up for what's necessary, not for what will make everyone happy!

Becky 12 years, 3 months ago

southdakotan you are the one that started to call me names when I did not agree with you. I truely belive that you fought for nothing if you are willing to hand over your rights to the goverment. I think that you need to read Dorothyhr comment because it is correct.

christie 12 years, 3 months ago

Everybody Click your HEALS and raise your right arm up HIGH.

Non-Compliance will result in being held without legal council or access to a lawyer. Do you have your Papers?? Your Papers are NOT IN ORDER !!! Arrest them !!!!

We are fighting to allow a bunch of Iraqis to create their own constitution... why not give them ours, we aren't using it anymore.

chzypoof1 12 years, 3 months ago

Gosh christie, you are so right. And since you hate this country and it's government so much, why don't you go to Iraq and help out? The beauty of the freedom of America, is that you have the freedom to LEAVE!

Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

I agree partly with Badger - the issue is NOT whether to wiretap (although conceivably that could be an issue behind the scenes) but whether the law about wiretapping will be followed (at all).

We're now weeks into this controversy and we still don't have an answer to the basic question: why not follow the law? Apparently, the Administration position (via the AG) is "we don't have to tell you why we won't because (a) we don't have to tell you, and (b) W has unchecked power, and (c) you should trust W." Many Republicans, to their credit, don't buy this and are scrambling to find a way to avoid conflict with their Party leader (who seems intent on "playing chicken" with Congress).

(I certainly hope there's a parallel universe where President Hillary is following this same path and there's a wingnut push for impeachment.)

Hmm...seems to me if one hates American freedom, it would be incumbant upon the hater to leave America, not for America to leave the hater.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

If there is another terror attack on US soil, everyone will be screaming "where's the government?" "why didn't the government stop it?" "when did the government know about it?" We should use every tool at our disposal to thwart another attack and win this war on terrorism. I don't see the terrorist running around screaming "my rights are being abused".....they will stop at nothing to bring our country down.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

southdakotan said:

"Badger...you have forgotten Sept 11th."

You're a moron and a disgusting fraud.

Lest I forget, please understand that I have graves to remind me.

Get bent, you jingoistic blusterer.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Badger......your ignorance is marked by you resorting to name calling.

Patty Buchholz 12 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Bush seems to think he can do anything he likes and America will agree with him. This is why he continues to use the 'scare' tactic of 9/11. If he constantly talks about it, some of you will remain scared, just what he wants, and allow him to do anything in the name of 9/11. Have you forgotten that he ignored Bin Laden and went after Saddam, who had no weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11? The threat of Bin Laden is still there, you think. Now could that be because that is the way Bush wants it? You will give him anything that he wants. This is America, the country that I love and want to remain free, not run by a dictator like Mr. Bush.

Applied_Logic 12 years, 3 months ago

Southdakotan: NOT EVERYONE - how typically small minded to group all who disagree with you together history teaches that when the government is given an inch it takes a mile when a law is made it is rarely revoked, even when it was made for a specific time/occurance I don't have the exact numbers, but I doubt there are few American's who haven't served or lost loved ones because of wars 9/11 was a tragedy- whether it could have been stopped or not is irrelevant to the grieving and as long as our borders are open and planes fly we are not safe. As a country we impose our opinion of what is right on the world, some of the world doesn't like being treated like children. Oh wait, a lot of American's don't like being treated like irresponsible children by our government, the very government we are supposed to regulate. There are many who write in this forum who look beyond todays topic to the future loss. Who look to our history and the things we have given up and are fearful for the future freedom of our children and our country.

Badger: well said, as usual!

badger 12 years, 3 months ago


Your ignorance is demonstrated by you wrapping yourself in a flag that stands for something you're incapable of comprehending, and using people's dead friends and families as a PR dodge to try to obscure the real issue.

And it's not calling names to say you're a fraud. Had you spent an actual day in the service, you'd have learned that we HONOR our fallen dead.

We do not exploit them.

As for the other 'name calling', I'm sorry if my words offended. I'll explain them with smaller syllables if you like, so you can be properly outraged. I'd hate for you to feel vaguely insulted but not quite sure about what.

Applied_Logic 12 years, 3 months ago

badger, do it again! Your wit is exactly what I needed after two full days of teenagers.

Sorry, didn't mean to make light, but lol

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Since this forum has become "way" to personal, I am signing off. Why can't we have an adult conversation? I know nothing about you and you know nothing about me to make the judgement calls/accusations that were made.....so disappointed.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

Ah, sweet martyrdom, your siren call claims another digital soul.

optimist 12 years, 3 months ago

For those of you who don't understand what this is I will explain:

Firstly the term "wiretapping" is not an accurate portrayal of the facts. The more accurate term is "data mining". What this entails is simply a computer filtering through conversations using voice recognition software looking for keywords defined by those programming it as they are instructed. The calls being "mined" are either originating from or destined to numbers linked to known terrorists outside this country. Only after a hit on a keyword or phrase occurs does a human even listen to the contents of the message.

Any information garnered from this intelligence cannot be used to prosecute criminal behavior in this country except where national security is concerned. The manner in which the information is collected makes it inadmissible in court.

This practice is not criminal and is actually allowed as "reasonable" under the 4th amendment. This authority has been exercised by every President since Jimmy Carter. We the people and the Congress have known about it and no uproars occurred then. It's been used to bring spies and traitors to justice and nobody complained.

After 9/11 the intelligence community was accused of failing to connect the dots; we now complain when they are attempting to use the tools allowed them under the Constitution and reaffirmed by the Congress to do just that. If only they could have been this aggressive in compiling intel prior to 9/11 maybe it could have been prevented.

Those opposed to this practice haven't the first idea how to secure this nation. They apparently hate this President so much that when the terrorists succeeded it was his fault, now when he is doing exactly what they claim he should have been doing all along they cry fowl and when the next attack that could have been prevented occurs they won't look to themselves. They will blame him.

Be careful before you get exactly what you wish for. You may not like it.

southdakotan 12 years, 3 months ago

Optimist....I wish I could be as eloquent as you. Nicely stated. Thank you.

Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

optimist - thank you for your well-written statement. I disagree with several points. I'll stick to two.

The description of the technical aspects of the program is quite good. However, it is important to note that the telephone numbers are not restricted solely to terrorists but also expands through a variety of degrees of 'terrorist-light' groups until arriving at "terrorist affiliated." As anyone familiar with the Kafkaesque nature of bureaucracies will easily grasp "terrorist affiliated" is not intended to be semantically accurate. Since terrorist groups have a long history of using legitimate businesses and organizations, given the ease by which any several individuals in our world may be linked to any other, the term "terrorist affiliated" is easily abused. Given the perpetual nature of the war on terror, it is safe to assume that "terrorist affiliated" is capable of covering virtually everyone.

Indeed, the example actually cuts against any soothing of the sensibilities of lovers of liberty as it emphasizes the lack of probable cause for monitoring to begin with. In short, it is literally a "fishing expedition."

I also take exception to your citation that "this" authority has been exercised by all Presidents since Carter (that is, during the "lifetime" of FISA). I guess that depends on the meaning of the word "this." For example, Carter authorized his AG to approve wiretaps without court order (warrant) in Executive Order 12139: http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo12139.htm

Several aspects of "this" authority become quickly apparent: 1. The authorization is made UNDER authority of FISA, 2. The wiretaps in question arise under Section 1802(a)(1) of FISA, 3. Section 1802(a)(1) is carefully limited to communications of FOREIGN POWERS in which "there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party"

The subject matter of the wiretapping in question in "this" scandal does not fall under Section 1802(a)(1), not only because "the contents of [a] communication to which a United States person" is the TARGET of the wiretap but also because al-Qaeda is NOT a "foreign power" under definition of Section 1801(a)(1),(2),(3) (It is under (a)(4), which is NOT listed in 1802).

Therefore, "THIS" authority has NOT been exercised by any other President precisely for the reason that "THIS" authority does NOT exist.

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