Wednesday, December 21, 2005

You Can Run But You Can't Hide (Obligatory Big FISA Post)

This whole FISA business is quite unnerving. The reactions to it have been particularly diverse, some predictable and some unpredictable. First, the spooks. Defensetech has a solid roundup of the intelligence community's reaction to this whole FISA flap. (Hat tip, Balloon Juice.) In a word:

Their reactions range between midly creeped out and completely pissed off.

All of the sigint specialists emphasized repeatedly that keeping tabs on Americans is way beyond the bounds of what they ordinarily do -- no matter what the conspiracy crowd may think.

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."

[snip]

But this call chain could very well have grown out of control, the source admits. Suddenly, people ten and twelve degrees of separation away from Osama may have been targeted.


The spooks seem a bit spooked and puzzled. For what it seems this sounds like another typical and chronic Bush Administration problem. Something begins that seems justified and a good idea at the time, then begins to spiral out of control because little effort is made to restrain it.

Kevin Drum has an update on a FISA judge who resigned here and in an earlier post wonders why the hell the Bush Administration needed to stray from the loosey-goosey demands of FISA in the first place. FISA, among other things, allows the NSA and others to get warrants AFTER THE FACT in secret courts. These seems like it would easily suit their purposes, unless they're afraid of a CLASSIFIED paper trail that no one can legally access, and if they are afraid of it, what do they have to hide? Instabandit wonders the same thing, but posits that it may have been a technology issue (which I don't buy) and makes the very good point that this isn't so different than stuff that was happening under Clinton anyway.

Do I think this is an impeachable offense and he should resign, like some blowhards? No, because this isn't the worst thing he's done by far. Sure, it's sketchy, but so was the torture issue, which troubles me a bit more than domestic spying. I think the rightwing crowd's argument that this is not really anything new also rings plausible. As much as people would want to act like this is some sort of new Bush invention I doubt that. But, all the same, Congress should probe it, as many Republican lawmakers are calling for. We need more facts about who did what and the extent of this, and if it did spiral as out of control as it seems, heads should roll over at the NSA and people should do jail time. The notion that because Congress authorized the President to fight terrorism he could do this is absurd.