Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush and Intercepts of Communications

Captain's Quarters, once again, sets it straight.

Yes, indeed, the NYSlimes' story is BS--artfully disguised. That is to say, the President did what he was authorized to do--explicitly authorized to do--despite the bitch-ninny Feingold's horrific mis-reading of US law.

People have the impression that FISA requires warrants from the FISA judge, but that isn't what FISA says at all. In fact, FISA gives the government wide latitude in warrantless surveillance of international communications even when one point originates in the US -- as long as the person in the US does not qualify as a "US person":

(i) “United States person” means a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as defined in section 1101 (a)(20) of title 8), an unincorporated association a substantial number of members of which are citizens of the United States or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or a corporation which is incorporated in the United States, but does not include a corporation or an association which is a foreign power, as defined in subsection (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this section.

And further,

In fact, the only people who need to make this call are the President and the Attorney General, and it doesn't even make the accidental or tangential exposure of communications with US persons a crime. It only requires that the AG ensure that mitigation procedures have been applied to ensure compliance with FISA. The only way that one can violate this law is if the law gets intentionally violated. In other words, one would have to prove that Bush intentionally ordered the surveillance of a qualifying US person.

Since the targets within the US got identified through intelligence developed through captures of al-Qaeda agents and their equipment, it seems rather unlikely that they had contacts with many US-born American citizens. Most AQ assets enter countries on student visas -- which does not qualify them as a US person under FISA and therefore does not extend them the protection of warrants prior to or during surveillance.

Note that a US person must either be a US citizen or someone lawfully admitted to the US for permanent residence. If someone resides in the US on a visa and not a green card, they do not qualify, nor do they qualify if they get a green card under false pretenses. FISA authorizes warrantless surveillance in its opening chapter

Nothing more to be said.

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