FISA Amendment Allows Collection of All Our International Calls

Great read today, in the Nation: Data Mining Our Liberties. Aziz Huq examines the recently passed "Protect America Act of 2007." The Brennan Center says:

Azi believes the law "is a dramatic, across-the-board expansion of government authority to collect information without judicial oversight," and "an open-ended invitation to collect Americans' international calls and e-mails."

Huq breaks down how and why this law came into being and notes that, in truth, the law actually does not expire in 6 months. Ultimately it gives the Administration "power without responsibility" and "allows the government to spy when there is no security justification."

Just a few of the points:

The law's most important effect is arguably not its expansion of raw surveillance power but the sloughing away of judicial or Congressional oversight.

....The key term in the Protect America Act is its licensing of "surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States." ....the trouble with this language is that it permits freewheeling surveillance of Americans' international calls and e-mails. The problem lies in the words "directed at." Under this language, the NSA could decide to "direct" its surveillance at Peshawar, Pakistan--and seize all US calls going to and from there. It could focus on Amman, or Cairo, or London, or Paris, or Toronto... Simply put, the law is an open-ended invitation to collect Americans' international calls and e-mails.

Go on over and read the whole thing.

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    It matters precisely because (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Sumner on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 03:06:05 PM EST
    Government legitimacy is prefaced upon the "consent of the governed".

    That implies informed consent.

    Do you think that the vast majority (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 03:58:07 PM EST
    of people who vote next year will have any idea what has happened, or that a new president will have any concern for whether or not s/he has the "consent of the governed"?

    ignorance is bliss, they say (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Sumner on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 11:05:15 AM EST
    except that the usurpations continue to compound.

    Like: "Homeland Security chief vows to move forward with ID law".

    We know that they pile these usurpations on as multi-pronged assaults.

    These laws get rammed through, sometimes by lies, other times by hook or by crook. Ever wonder why the worst dictatorships often show overwhelming votes for the dictator?

    I doubt people will want the total sum of their very humanity conditional upon a state-issued document, like so much an automobile "pink slip".

    Consent of the governed?

    Informed consent?

    We know the People do not want Big Brother government eavesdropping, especially when it's to play gotcha. We already know they're eavesdroppers. Are they not just as likely to be Peeping Toms as well?

    As far as communicating all this to the masses,  as a shaman once said, "one can even talk to rocks, if one but only dumbs it down enough."


    the flanking maneuver (none / 0) (#12)
    by Sumner on Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 01:25:36 AM EST
    Consistent with government's plan to foist a National ID, the Bush administration has just embarked upon an immediate crackdown on "illegal immigrants" as part of a multi-pronged strategy, as agitprop, in order to make the public acceptance of mandatory National ID somehow more agreeable.

    The idea seems to be that a National ID will allow the members of the public to more easily and proudly distinguish themselves from "the Others".


    "Reasonably Believed" (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jeff in Texas on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 06:49:54 PM EST
    The law does not even require that one end of the conversation be out of the country, but merely "reasonably believed" to be so.  Now, granted, the "reasonable" element usually means that a person must not only subjectively believe something (which, as an evidentiary matter, is practically impossible to refute if the person says it is so), but also that the belief must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances.  But in this case, who or what is reviewing the individual decisions to apply an objective test?  Is it the AG and DNI saying to each other "I believe this reasonably, do YOU?" and "Oh heck yeah, I believe it reasonably also"?  I mean really, once you have set up the "cover"-- that is, a statutory basis to vacuum up international calls without a warrant by tapping into a domestic hub or switch-- what, in real life, stops the vacuum from sucking up purely domestic communications between Americans?  And while an evidentiary bar is often an adequate protection from ill-gotten evidence, the reality in this case is that once the NSA has painted a total picture of your life, it is no problem at all to go about finding ostensibly untainted evidence to send you up the river with.  Assuming they give you a trial, obviously.      

    "consent of the governed" (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by diogenes on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:07:08 PM EST
    I suspect that the vast majority of the people are not so narcissistic as to think that Washington bureaucrats are spying on their oh so important calls to Aunt Mabel in London.  A referendum on this bill (absent connection to Bush) would pass easily.

    why doesn't ir expire in 6 mos? (none / 0) (#1)
    by debcoop on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 01:04:47 PM EST
    please explain this distressing fact that you cited.


    Because (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 01:11:56 PM EST
    the surveillance, once granted, can continue for a year. So surveillance that begins in 5 months, 29 days, can continue for a year after that.

    See Section 105(b) (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 01:15:23 PM EST
    ``SEC. 105B. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the
    20 Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States if the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General determine, based on the information provided to
    them, that...."

    The text of the bill is here (pdf).


    It seems to me that (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 01:47:24 PM EST
    with McConnell and Gonzales in full operational control of it that there is not even any reason to believe that surveillances beginning after six months will not simply be "backdated" on the chance that their certification might be called into evidence?

    From Walter Pincus at WAPO yesterday:

    Once the procedures are established, the attorney general and director of national intelligence will formally certify that the collection of data is authorized -- a determination based on affidavits from intelligence officials. But the certification will be placed under seal "unless the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the acquisition," according to the law signed by Bush.

    It is left to the director of national intelligence and the attorney general to "assess compliance with such procedures" and report their assessments to the House and Senate intelligence panels, the statute states.

    I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille! (none / 0) (#4)
    by Sumner on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 01:41:16 PM EST
    Edwards, Obama or Clinton should probably hire Bruce Fein.

    This newly enacted Spy "Law" is not unprecedented in that people overwhelmingly opposed it and yet it was still passed, (rushed through, in fact). Similarly, as an analogy, the People sent hundreds-of-thousands of letters (running something like a 100-to-1) to the FCC opposing media consolidation and still the FCC voted in more media mergers.

    This new spy "law" is Constitutionally void ab initio and corporate impunity will be void nunc pro tunc.

    Does the bill that was just passed also envision and suppose and imply that antivirus software companies must ignore Government trojans?

    How about this development: "Websites could be required to retain visitor info".

    Or factor in: "School Boards Rule - Internet No Longer Dangerous".

    Do these companies think that they will have some sort of Nuremberg Defense of "We were just following orders"?

    In the mid 1980's, I anticipated where this was going. I applied for a grant of $100,000 from AT&T (via a Baby Bell) on the reasoning that as they facilitated government's tapping of phones, that they should do something on the civil rights side by supporting my film for the Bicentennial of the US Constitution. They responded, "would you accept less?"

    These companies are, after all, accepting government's 30-pieces-of-silver to betray our privacy.

    Consider renowned Hollywood film director Sydney Pollack's recent remarks.

    As a strategy, we could all inundate the technlogy companies that are so willing to do the government's dirty work and ask them all for grants so that we can make videos defending our rights from them.

    Why video?

    Just have a look at Max Blumenthal's recent video. He articulates that answer quite cogently. (YouTube)

    what's the difference? (none / 0) (#6)
    by koshembos on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 02:46:59 PM EST
    Bush already collected all information he wanted even when it violated FISA. Now FISA is not in his way anymore. We failed to control Bush before or after the new FISA.

    Do we think that our future holds some other war criminals that will to abide by FISA and violate everything else otherwise?