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Sunday, January 01, 2006

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Walter Pincus is reporting in the WaPo that the NSA's information intercepts have been passed around to a number of other intelligence agencies in the government.
The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, said three current and former senior administration officials.... Information from intercepts -- which typically includes records of telephone or e-mail communications -- would be made available by request to agencies that are allowed to have it, including the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security, one former official said.

At least one of those organizations, the DIA, has used NSA information as the basis for carrying out surveillance of people in the country suspected of posing a threat, according to two sources.
This is going to call into question any number of terrorism prosecutions in this country from the time of 9/11 forward, due to "fruit of the poisonous tree" concerns that the defendants could have come under government suspicion due to illegal search methods being used at the start.

Look, there are legal ways to gather surveillance information both on non-citizens of this country as well as on US citizens. And surveillance of all kinds provides valuable information to law enforcement agencies every day to prevent crime and to stop potential threats. I want to be clear that surveillance is a necessary part of investigations -- and is not something that I have a problem with, when the proper procedures are followed.

What the Bush Administration has done, though, is to circumvent the legal processes that were set up over a period of years and years in this nation to specifically prohibit this type of spying without some third-party oversight.

Pincus' article goes through some history on why this was set up in this way in the 1960s and 70s, after it was discovered that the government was using its considerable resources -- including the military -- to spy on war protestors and others. The Church Commission's finding were very disturbing to members of Congress, and the FISA Court was established as a result.

But what oversight, if any, has occurred in the latest revelations of domestic spying by the NSA and other agencies? Not much -- and I would argue that this was by design, so the Administration wouldn't have anyone looking over their shoulders in what they were doing. Otherwise, why bypass the FISA court at all, when they had a 72-hour free-for-all period to gather information before getting a warrant?

The only reason to do that is if the Administration was conducting activities that they knew from the start would not be approved because they went too far. And the only reason not to ask Congress for an extension of allowable activities under the law by amending the FISA requirements -- over a more than four year period of time -- is because the Administration knew that such approval was unlikely to be given to them because the activities in which they have been engaged would be considered illegal and untenable by even a Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Hell, they barely got approval from their own Attorney General, when he was in the hospital revcovering from surgery. That does not speak well for the Administration's choices, does it, when even John Ashcroft is hesitant?

These latest revelations bring not only the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into play in terms of Congressional oversight, but also Armed Services -- and I have to wonder how John Warner, John McCain and Carl Levin were feeling as they opened this morning's WaPo, especially if Rummy and Cambone hadn't bothered to tell them about all of this. Or that the Talon system hasn't been purging information after 90 days as required by law.

Up until now, I haven't held out a lot of hope for Congressional oversight. But Senators and their egos do not like being bypassed. (Even more than members of the House, frankly.) When you add in the potential judicial issues from defense motions that are surely going to be filed for terrorism defendants, along with the other concerns that have been raised about CIFA and other military intelligence agencies being used to spy domestically on Administration critics -- well, I just feel like everything is headed for a big confrontation. Maybe it will be the Padilla case. Maybe something else.

But I have a feeling that King George is about to be taught a lesson. And it can't happen soon enough.

(Graphics love to The Propoganda Remix Project. Some fantastic artwork here -- and a lot of it is available as posters and such. Take a peek.)