Report: Record Number of Secret Searches in 2005

According to a new disclosure report (mandated by the Patriot Act), there were a record number of secret FISA warrants in 2005.

A secret court approved all but one of the government's requests last year to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies, according to Justice Department data released Tuesday.

In all, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court signed off on 2,176 warrants targeting people in the United States believed to be linked to international terror organizations or spies. The record number is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And here's the rub:


But in its three-page public report, sent to Senate and House leaders, the Justice Department said it could not yet provide data on how many times the FBI secretly sought telephone, Internet and banking records about U.S. citizens and residents without court approval.

The department is still compiling those numbers amid an internal investigation of the FBI's improper - and in some cases illegal - use of so-called national security letters. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge's approval.

The ACLU's letter opposing the "modernization of FISA" is available here.

From their press release today:

"Broadening FISA would only reward and legitimize both the Justice Department and executive branch's numerous violations of the law," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Giving the Department of Justice more latitude to conduct warrantless searches is ludicrous when you consider that it has shown no restraint with the power it already has. If a little boy destroys a tricycle, you don't hand him the keys to the car."

While the Administration claims that the proposed FISA changes would "modernize" the law, in truth they would gut the judicial oversight mechanisms carefully crafted to prevent abuse, while expanding the scope of communications that can be intercepted under FISA. Ironically, the changes would return intelligence gathering to the pre-FISA era and earlier, when warrants were largely optional and abusive spying was not limited to people who had done something wrong.

.... More disturbingly, this bill includes complete immunity - from criminal prosecution as well as civil liability - for the telecom companies' participation in the National Security Agency's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. The telecom companies provided customer call data on millions of Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing. The ACLU noted that this rush to retroactive immunity for an entire industry in the absence of a full and thorough airing of the facts is unprecedented.

"Congress should not allow the Administration to treat innocent Americans as suspects," said Fredrickson. "It also most certainly should not hand telecom companies a get-out-of-jail-free card for violating their customers' privacy. Our lawmakers must prove that they are working on behalf of their constituents - not big business."

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  • Display: Sort:
    time to start dialing (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 02:47:38 PM EST
    your Congresscritters and Senators to make sure they know to block this new assault on the Constitution.

    If they vote for it, I argue they do not deserve your vote.  I told my senators' (staffs) that, if they voted for the Torture Act, they could expect to never get my vote again.  They did, the one up last time didn't and they won't in the future.

    What catches my eye... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue May 01, 2007 at 03:07:54 PM EST
     is not the 2176 searches, but the fact the court approved all but one request.

      If my math's correct that means approximatewly
    %99.95 of all requested warrants are issued.

    I wonder who the.... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by kdog on Tue May 01, 2007 at 06:31:56 PM EST
    one lucky guy or gal knew.

    I noticed that too (none / 0) (#5)
    by Sailor on Wed May 02, 2007 at 09:02:51 AM EST
    It makes you wonder why they want even more power:
    Court orders in January that brought President Bush's warrantless terrorist surveillance program under existing law have limited the intelligence that agencies can collect, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told a Senate committee yesterday.

    "We are actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting," McConnell said during an unusual public session of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the administration's proposal to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

    Rubber Stamp (none / 0) (#3)
    by mack on Tue May 01, 2007 at 04:01:09 PM EST
    In other words, the FISA court is living up to its reputation as a "rubber stamp" court.

    Look on the bright side; if the feds were applying six sigma quality standards to getting a FISA warrant approved, they failed since they didn't achieve a 99.97% success rate.