NSA and Bush's Illegal Eavesdropping

When President Bush directed the National Security Agency to secretly eavesdrop on American citizens, he transferred an authority previously under the purview of the Justice Department to the Defense Department and bypassed the very laws put in place to protect Americans against widespread government eavesdropping. The reason may have been to tap the NSA's capability for data-mining and widespread surveillance.

Illegal wiretapping of Americans is nothing new. In the 1950s and '60s, in a program called "Project Shamrock," the NSA intercepted every single telegram coming into or going out of the United States. It conducted eavesdropping without a warrant on behalf of the CIA and other agencies. Much of this became public during the 1975 Church Committee hearings and resulted in the now famous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.

The purpose of this law was to protect the American people by regulating government eavesdropping. Like many laws limiting the power of government, it relies on checks and balances: one branch of the government watching the other. The law established a secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and empowered it to approve national-security-related eavesdropping warrants. The Justice Department can request FISA warrants to monitor foreign communications as well as communications by American citizens, provided that they meet certain minimal criteria.

The FISC issued about 500 FISA warrants per year from 1979 through 1995, and has slowly increased subsequently -- 1,758 were issued in 2004. The process is designed for speed and even has provisions where the Justice Department can wiretap first and ask for permission later. In all that time, only four warrant requests were ever rejected: all in 2003. (We don't know any details, of course, as the court proceedings are secret.)

FISA warrants are carried out by the FBI, but in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks, there was a widespread perception in Washington that the FBI wasn't up to dealing with these new threats -- they couldn't uncover plots in a timely manner. So instead the Bush administration turned to the NSA. They had the tools, the expertise, the experience, and so they were given the mission.

The NSA's ability to eavesdrop on communications is exemplified by a technological capability called Echelon. Echelon is the world's largest information "vacuum cleaner," sucking up a staggering amount of voice, fax, and data communications -- satellite, microwave, fiber-optic, cellular and everything else -- from all over the world: an estimated 3 billion communications per day. These communications are then processed through sophisticated data-mining technologies, which look for simple phrases like "assassinate the president" as well as more complicated communications patterns.

Supposedly Echelon only covers communications outside of the United States. Although there is no evidence that the Bush administration has employed Echelon to monitor communications to and from the U.S., this surveillance capability is probably exactly what the president wanted and may explain why the administration sought to bypass the FISA process of acquiring a warrant for searches.

Perhaps the NSA just didn't have any experience submitting FISA warrants, so Bush unilaterally waived that requirement. And perhaps Bush thought FISA was a hindrance -- in 2002 there was a widespread but false believe that the FISC got in the way of the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui (the presumed "20th hijacker") -- and bypassed the court for that reason.

Most likely, Bush wanted a whole new surveillance paradigm. You can think of the FBI's capabilities as "retail surveillance": It eavesdrops on a particular person or phone. The NSA, on the other hand, conducts "wholesale surveillance." It, or more exactly its computers, listens to everything. An example might be to feed the computers every voice, fax, and e-mail communication looking for the name "Ayman al-Zawahiri.". This type of surveillance is more along the lines of Project Shamrock, and not legal under FISA. As Sen. Jay Rockefeller wrote in a secret memo after being briefed on the program, it raises "profound oversight issues."

It is also unclear whether Echelon-style eavesdropping would prevent terrorist attacks. In the months before 9/11, Echelon noticed considerable "chatter": bits of conversation suggesting some sort of imminent attack. But because much of the planning for 9/11 occurred face-to-face, analysts were unable to learn details.

The fundamental issue here is security, but it's not the security most people think of. James Madison famously said: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." Terrorism is a serious risk to our nation, but an even greater threat is the centralization of American political power in the hands of any single branch of the government.

Over 200 years ago, the framers of the U.S. Constitution established an ingenious security device against tyrannical government: they divided government power among three different bodies. A carefully thought out system of checks and balances in the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch, ensured that no single branch became too powerful.

After watching tyrannies rise and fall throughout Europe, this seemed like a prudent way to form a government. Courts monitor the actions of police. Congress passes laws that even the president must follow. Since 9/11, the United States has seen an enormous power grab by the executive branch. It's time we brought back the security system that's protected us from government for over 200 years.

A version of this essay originally appeared in Salon.

I wrote another essay about the legal and constitutional implications of this. The Minneapolis Star Tribune will publish it either Wednesday or Thursday, and I will post it here at that time.

I didn't talk about the political dynamics in either essay, but they're fascinating. The White House kept this secret, but they briefed at least six people outside the administration. The current and former chief justices of the FISC knew about this. Last Sunday’s Washington Post reported that both of them had misgivings about the program, but neither did anything about it. The White House also briefed the Committee Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and they didn’t do anything about it. (Although Sen. Rockefeller wrote a bizarre I'm-not-going-down-with-you memo to Cheney and for his files.)

Cheney was on television this weekend citing this minimal disclosure as evidence that Congress acquiesced to the program. I see it as evidence of something else: if people from both the Legislative and the Judiciary branches knowingly permitted unlawful surveillance by the Executive branch, then the current system of checks and balances isn't working.

It’s also evidence about how secretive this administration is. None of the other FISC judges, and none of the other House or Senate Intelligence Committee members, were told about this,­ even under clearance. And if there’s one thing these people hate, it’s being kept in the dark on a matter within their jurisdiction. That’s why Senator Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was so upset yesterday. And it’s pushing Senator Specter, and some of the Republicans in these Judiciary committees, further into the civil liberties camp.

There are about a zillion links worth reading, but here are some of them you might not yet have seen. Some good newspaper commentaries. An excellent legal analysis. Three blog posts. Four more blog posts. Daniel Solove on FISA. Two legal analyses. An interesting "Democracy Now" commentary, including interesting comments on the NSA's capabilities by James Bamford. And finally, my 2004 essay on the security of checks and balances.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." -- William Pitt, House of Commons, 11/18/1783.

Posted on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 PM • 97 Comments

Comments

ARLDecember 20, 2005 1:21 PM

I am not even sure we know it is illegal. Congress has long ago handed off the more difficult roles assigned it. When they will no longer call a war a war, but instead sneak around the issue, things get murkey fast.

Were these intercepts the military listening in on declared enemies of the USA in a time of war? Or were they wiretapping civilians engaged in possible criminal activity? Perhaps both?

We have built complex rules for who can do what and when. If this were a case of the NSA listening in on drug dealers the answer would be simple.

While there may have been a loophole that made this legal, I would have rather seen an error to the side of caution and had at least a blanket warrant issued for the operation.

I also question why those who were notified did not speak out against it before the leak. A lack of objection is a sign of agreement in many things.

anonymous cowardDecember 20, 2005 1:23 PM

It is my understanding based on what was released regarding this that it was only international calls not domestic that were tapped.

It is further my understanding that the NSA has had the right to tap without warrant foreign calls that originated in foreign countries just not ones that originated domestically.

Further it is my understanding that the only thing that changes is *international* calls that originated domestically were allowed to be tapped by the NSA.

Its hardly different if the NSA can monitor international calls without warrant if they originate from a foreign country to say that the same two people talking cant be tapped without warrant if the call was originated domestically. There is very little difference.

My understanding of everyone jumping on this bandwaggon to talk about it is that very very few want to admit that its only international calls instead they want to create FUD making it seem like the NSA is tapping all local calls too. That is irresponsible on the part of all those printing stories or blogs that intentionally hide the fact that its only international calls and mislead their readers into some reactionary political stance for their own personal gain.

anonymous cowardDecember 20, 2005 1:24 PM

To add to my last post I forgot to mention that this door was opened in October 1998 when clinton signed into law a bill that gave more powers in this regard. No one wants to talk about that, only that its Bush's fault, combined with the intentional FUD and misleading statements I am forced to believe that the reason this is 'news' is not because of the subject matter but more for a political statement disguised as 'fact'.

anonymous cowardDecember 20, 2005 1:26 PM

To ARL: the intercepts are limited by the order to only people previously linked as al queada affiliated. These links come in the form of phone intercepts but largely from computers and phones seized in Afganistan and Iraq. They arent tapping people pursuant to this order just becuase this order specifically limits them to linked people (however I dont think that term was defined) and international calls.

anonymous cowardDecember 20, 2005 1:29 PM

Bruce: I did not comment on whether it was illegal or not, I did however comment on you creating FUD and omiting certain facts about what is going on.

Suggesting I read the legal analysis does not fix the fact that you did not state that it was only international calls and instead are trying to make people think that its domestic calls too. Did you even read my post?

Bruce SchneierDecember 20, 2005 1:36 PM

"I did not comment on whether it was illegal or not, I did however comment on you creating FUD and omiting certain facts about what is going on."

Sorry. Whch facts?

I am not writing about every aspect of this; it's simply too big and complicated. I have an op ed being published tomorrow that talks about more things I didn't talk about here, so some of this might be timing.

But I'm not trying to deliberately obscure the issues. What am I not talking about that you think I should?

This has always only been about international calls. That's what FISA warrants are for. I think that isn't being talked about because most of the commentators think it's obvious and not relevent.

Mike WDecember 20, 2005 1:40 PM

This issue is almostly entirely political. The bottom line is when the feds are tipped off to phone calls that involve an attack, the feds need to immediately investigate the calls, and calls on other phones they may switch to, regardless of physical location of the phone or the caller's citizenship. Nearly everyone approves of *that* when a genuine military attack is involved. What's the wording of a law that allows that? Beats me.

jammitDecember 20, 2005 1:44 PM

Just a quickie. I thought the only reason for a wiretap was to get evidence on a criminal, not to find criminals. This is a peaceful version of kill them all, and let God sort 'em out. Our resident (not a typo) of the USA is getting a little big for his britches.

Matti KinnunenDecember 20, 2005 1:45 PM

@Mike W:

Is there or has there been a "genuine military attack involved"? At least, the attackers are not worth of Geneva laws, so they are not parts of any military.

Besides, I do not think that we should trust in Mr. Bush when he says that he has, with these illegal measures, prevented any sort of attacks. He has been caught lying so many times. He clearly does not think that his subjects are entitled to truth. Pity for America - there was a coup and now it is too late to regret - unless the Congress is brave enough to restore democracy and rule of law.

SteveDecember 20, 2005 1:45 PM

I would bet that Echelon is being used. This quote from the nytimes article (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/politics/20spy.html?pagewanted=2):

"Administration officials, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the information, suggested that the speed with which the operation identified "hot numbers" - the telephone numbers of suspects - and then hooked into their conversations lay behind the need to operate outside the old law."

This seems to imply an automated system of message scanning.Such a system would essentially be monitoring all of the international calls and then focusing on the filtered ones. This is where I would guess that the administration decided to circumvent FISA--they couldn't obtain a warrant covering all calls indiscriminately. And this is the part that would seem to be clearly illegal.

MichaelDecember 20, 2005 1:47 PM

In regards to the comments about Echelon.... there are plenty of fiction/conspiracy reports out there that indicate such a system exist. Do you have any supporting facts to substantiate this claim?

AGDecember 20, 2005 1:49 PM

#1 Terrorist do not use the Internet, Cell phones, or faxes for communication. Real terrorist use trusted couriers to spread information mouth to ear. Real terrorist are simple people who trust simple methods.

Echelon-ish systems are designed to monitor and control all electronic communication (he who has the information controls it)... the real target is probably China.

As far as monitoring Americans or monitoring people without court approval I don't think the legality/morality of it really matters. Why? Americans are boring people who live boring unimportant lives. There is nothing for the government to find.

#2 You gave up your rights to privacy when you re-elected Bush. Bush won hands down and now he is just doing what he promised he would do. He promised that we would continue to fight the war on terror using ALL available means. Has there ever been a more honest President of the USA?

NotThatMoDecember 20, 2005 2:05 PM

@Mike W: The existing law allows wiretapping to begin immediately in case of an emergency. The intelligence services/law enforcement then have 72 hours to notify the FISA court. (Which at the point this program was started, had NEVER denied a wiretap. They had sometimes asked for more evidence - but had always been satisfied when it was supplied.)

The only reason anyone would need to go beyond this system is either hubris or wanting to do something unconstitutional.

Lou the trollDecember 20, 2005 2:14 PM

@anonymous coward - You're so hung up on the issue of international calls... what's the deal? Do you think that anyone who calls family living abroad is a suspected terrorist? What's next, investigating all international travellers as terrorists?

Lou the troll (who's still bent about being considered guilty before proven innocent)

ArachnidDecember 20, 2005 2:18 PM

I wonder what would happen if a Washington policeman decided to arrest Bush? He has confessed to a crime, and _supposedly_ the sort of government the US embraces means that anyone, including the president, can be arrested...

Matti KinnunenDecember 20, 2005 2:20 PM

@Lou the troll:

I think everyone is being suspected of being a terrorist. Just remember, that real Americans have done terrorist things in the past and that the "islamist propaganda" may turn anyone into a bomb-throwing criminal. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to spy on each and everyone all the time. Actually, it would be prudent to arrest everyone on regular basis and use somem aggressive interrogation to find out leads to other terrorists. Remember, this was the method in another superpower with an above-law leader. It worked very well: no terrorist acts weer committed.

Bruce SchneierDecember 20, 2005 2:23 PM

"Please explain how you know that only international calls were tapped."

We don't know. That's the claim, and for now I'll take it face value. This doesn't make the practice any less illegal, mind you, as the FISA process has specific statues about monitoring international calls involving U.S. citizens.

AnonymousDecember 20, 2005 2:29 PM

"Over 200 years ago, the framers of the U.S. Constitution established an ingenious security device against tyrannical government: they divided government..."

Ah, well this is really what's at stake isn't it? This crowd don't give a damn about Madison or any of the Founding Fathers never mind the political thinking of Enlightenment thinkers like Hume.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 20, 2005 2:31 PM

Nice essay.

"Since 9/11, the United States has seen an enormous power grab by the executive branch. It's time we brought back the security system that's protected us from government for over 200 years."

Ah, yes, some must have missed the memo/warning:

"How bad are Bush's relations with the Hill? 'A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it,' he recently joked."

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jul2001/nf20010730_347.htm

You are correct to say that errors in leadership (even those that beg the question of legality) are found throughout history and therefore not a partisan issue, but here is a thoughtful reflection on former US leaders that suggests the sum of prior errors may suddenly have been found altogether in one man:

http://hnn.us/comments/66933.html

The George W. Bush presidency is the worst since:
In terms of economic damage, Reagan.
In terms of imperialism, T Roosevelt.
In terms of dishonesty in government, Nixon.
In terms of affable incompetence, Harding.
In terms of corruption, Grant.
In terms of general lassitude and cluelessness, Coolidge.
In terms of personal dishonesty, Clinton.
In terms of religious arrogance, Wilson.

So I guess the question is also whether the US system of checks-and-balances can handle such a potent combination?

AnonDecember 20, 2005 2:36 PM

"Although you note that "the seeds of this" happened during Clinton, the critical difference is that, whatever you think of Echelon, it complied with the law. The apologists, always so eager to blame Clinton, are understandably downplaying that point."

Or, in the case of Newsmax and a few others, out-and-out lying about it.

ARLDecember 20, 2005 2:45 PM

Well Bruce while you (and others) feel that it is illegal, others claim that what was done was legal.

Given the complexity of the laws involved it just is not that cut and dry. Remember the idea that complexity is the enemy of security? That holds true here where complex laws have been put in place that leave cracks that let things get past.

RichDecember 20, 2005 2:55 PM

"#2 You gave up your rights to privacy when you re-elected Bush."

I didn't vote for Bush. And even if I had, that would not be an explicit desertion of the right to privacy. And if Gore/Kerry had been elected, we could very well be in the same pickle.

I think if we're going to have any hope of fixing the bigger political problems of this country, we're going to have to get away from the "My guy is better than your guy" thinking. The vast majority of politicians become corrupt absolutely. The seperation of powers is supposed to save us from that, but it only works if the powers don't gang up on us.

SteveDecember 20, 2005 3:15 PM


@ ARL:

Please give us a link to a well-respected lawyer who states that this wasn't illegal.

The links provided by Bruce include an analysis by one of the nation's top litigators who says that this action by Bush was clearly illegal. There are plenty of other lawyers saying the same thing.

Mani VaradarajanDecember 20, 2005 3:15 PM

Most of the respondents above are missing the point Bruce is making. Leave aside all issues of whether this is an effective program or whether the calls are international or not. That is beside the point. The central issue is the structure and nature of our representative government. Does the President have the right to make wholesale changes to the law without any oversight and without consulting Congress, particularly when it concerns something as fundamental as the integrity of a citizen's "personal effects" and communications?

The very basis of the doctrine of balance of powers vitiates against this. If the President has the right to interpret or supersede the law entirely as he sees fit, then there is no need for Congress at all, no need for individual representatives, and no need for any committees for which the executive branch purportedly needs to report to.

Anyone who is schooled in the history of our Constitution and the Founding Fathers should plainly see that this is *not* how our government was intended to operate. It dismays me how many people are getting caught up in one variety of fear-mongering or another, without questioning the central Constitutional and procedural principles.

What's even stranger is that the President and his assistants have absolutely no answer to *why* the existing oversight provisions in FISA constitute a burden. If they were a burden, our governmental structure requires the Executive to request Congress to deliberate and legislate to specifically address the problem. He is, after all, working with a friendly (some would say pushover) Congress controlled by his own party, so the likelihood of delay is small. Whatever the case, the President has absolutely no prerogative to unilaterally and secretly make changes to the law himself.

MichaelDecember 20, 2005 3:17 PM

"#2 You gave up your rights to privacy when you re-elected Bush."

I didn't vote for Bush. And even if I had, that would not be an explicit desertion of the right to privacy. And if Gore/Kerry had been elected, we could very well be in the same pickle..."

I agree, the assumption that Bush = giving up right to privacy is not a valid statement. Thats political propaganda... HOWEVER, if you want to start that... what would Kerry have done? Change his mind tommorow? As Bush said in his address on monday... it larger than the President...

cyphertubeDecember 20, 2005 3:20 PM

I don't understand how this is all that murky regarding whether or not this is legal.

Listening in to Bamford's discussion this morning on NPR, it seemed pretty well that the NSA has encountered similar circumstances before, where calls that are ostensibly between two foreign nations are sometimes redirected along the telecom lines that they cross through the US. This basically results in a need for a FISA warrant, which has only been denied 10 times. It can be filed for afterwards, and if denied, there is still an appeal available (only one appeal ever made), and should that appeal fail, it can go to the Supreme Court.

The fact is that they are trying to claim that this has to do with a 'war' on terrorism. This logic effectively turns the executive into a branch with no checks or balances.

What I find frustrating about this is that without clear military targets, they are then engaging in police activitites using military resources, without clearly being asked by another agency. If the FBI had put in for a FISA request for NSA, that would have been fine (police with military support), but not the NSA alone (military performing police duty).

This is a continuation of the same grab for power to extend the power of the executive that keeps trying to shrug off whether pre-war intelligence was modified or not as being irrelevant. Well, the authorisation for war in Iraq was dependant on that need, and were there to be evidence that it was polished, modified, and/or changed to meet the goals of the executive, then the authorisation would be instantly invalid, and the deployment of troops as it currnet stands illegal.

It's not that the checks and balances fail, it's that the elected officials who are supposed to be engaging in them are failing the American public.

AnonymousDecember 20, 2005 3:24 PM

"Given the complexity of the laws involved it just is not that cut and dry. Remember the idea that complexity is the enemy of security? That holds true here where complex laws have been put in place that leave cracks that let things get past."

Yes, in fact, it is cut and dry. Read the FISA statute in its entirety, and if there's something you don't understand, ask a lawyer. It's blazingly clear that surveillance of communications that include U.S. citizens requires a warrant, either before or shortly after the fact.

And that's the way it is.

AGDecember 20, 2005 3:27 PM

"Thats political propaganda" Whatever...I do not care what Kerry would have done.

TODAY Bush is the Chief. He is in charge.
"The buck stops here." as they say.
Therefore it is Bush's responsibility and he has failed.

AnonymousAlcoholicDecember 20, 2005 4:23 PM

The link to the "I'm-not-going-down-with-you memo to Cheney" goes to the Salon article.

Mike LisankeDecember 20, 2005 4:33 PM

Doesn't anyone who has commented above ever wonder whether acts of monitoring communication (in bulk) if unabused for political reasons wouldn't be beneficial as an anti-terror method. It seams (for at least a second) that the claim that there was reason to by-pass FISA (perhaps to use NSA Eschalon technology - the limits of which maybe can not even be revealed to mere humans running the country) is at least plausible. If so, then is the harm that there wasn't another even more super secret law which allowed this! How many people can you tell about mass high speed monitoring before the secret is out. And, if it does no good, would all those who have swarn to uphold the Constitution (including the President) simply disregard their duty. BTW, I'm fairly certain that the Pres. isn't monitoring these communications himself. So again, what is the harm? Or better stated, Isn't there a benefit to what was (Legally/Illegally) done?

cyphertubeDecember 20, 2005 4:44 PM

@Mike

Given that FISA is a secret court, I don't think there is a justification. The argument that violating the law because there is a greater threat is the argument used by vigilantes and/or dictators. In a functioning democratic government, lack of oversight is simply not acceptable.

It's not even a matter of necessarily what is done exactly, but also the precedent that is set. The government of the United States is far bigger than any one individual, and the precedent will have repercussions on future policy in future administrations, as well as to how the United States is viewed internationally.

The worst damage, again, is the credibility of the United States. After the Abu Ghraib prison scandals, the push to eliminate torture, and similar problems, when Congress passes laws to change those things, how much will other nations believe that they really are worth the paper they are written on if the executive branch can do whatever it wants, despite the law?

Chris WalshDecember 20, 2005 4:44 PM

@Mike Lisanke:

Josh Marshall answers your question before you even asked it, drawing on Thomas Jefferson to do so:

In a nutshell, the idea is that because of the unique oath the President takes, he may find it necessary to violate the law (even, the Constitution) in order to preserve the republic itself. In such a case, the President ought break the law (says Jefferson, according to Josh), but "it would then be the obligation of the president to throw himself on the mercy of the public, letting them know the full scope of the facts and circumstances he had faced and leave it to them -- or rather their representatives or the courts -- to impeach him or indict those who had taken it upon themselves to act outside the law."

I need hardly point out that the behavior Jefferson would have expected is precisely the opposite of that which we have gotten from Bush.

See http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/007290.php
for the full context of Josh's remarks, which come as a rebuttal to Kristol and Schmitt's bootlicking apologia.

another_bruceDecember 20, 2005 4:45 PM

it does not offend my conscience that calls to pakistan are monitored, since i have never telephoned a middle-eastern country. i am grateful for this disclosure just in time to deep-six the patriot act reauthorization. i believe this is just the tip of the iceberg, i suspect bush immediately copped to the monitoring of international calls to delay scrutiny of the monitoring of totally domestic calls which i suspect he is engaged in, i'm old enough to remember nixon's enemies list, consequently i would caution bruce schneier and all other high-profile administration critics:
do not commit the slightest indiscretion over your telephones. save that for face-to-face.

Mike LisankeDecember 20, 2005 5:18 PM

OK, How about the other take on this. If 'All' the people involved in the illegal order to monitor whatever is now or was being monitored weren't doing their Constitutional duty (i.e. protect and defend .. against all enemies foreign or domestic) then why do we hear about this grave violation of law from our 4th branch of government. If this isn't political (but rather a point of law) why didn't one of those trusted to carry out the order (and who believed it was illegal) turn the whole chain of command over to the authorities. There is the FBI, the CIA, the DOD, the Congress, the Courts, so; why the press. Oh, and Who turned the press on to this, (or was there a cost to revealing super secret information to those without clearance). Or, was it 'just to difficult' to find the correct authority. I've read Franklin, Paine, et. al. and I want to live in a free country, but; is this issue only just binary question. Isn't there a grey scale at least?

Fred F.December 20, 2005 5:26 PM

For those asking for a lawyer that thinks this is legal. I would say probably Judge Alberto Gonzales would be a high placed one that doesn't think it is illegal.

Also for the ones calling for the president's arrest, that would clearly be illegal. Part of the separation of powers people are talking about, it includes the president being excluded from any liability. When Clinton was being investigated, he claimed immunity while being president, but the courts found that the alleged crime happened before he was president and the time required for the procedings would not be excessive and interfere with his work as president. The courts were obviously wrong on that one.

To arrest the president you need an impeachment process in congress, and then his immunity gets revoked. Again, a check and balance to make sure the judicial system doesn't get carried away. It needs the other third to do something.

David ThomasDecember 20, 2005 5:32 PM

"it does not offend my conscience that calls to pakistan are monitored, since i have never telephoned a middle-eastern country"

This, I think, is a dangerous notion. I'm very nearly 100% confident that my calls have not been monitored. Even if they had been, I don't have anything to hide. There is nothing to make them illegally spying on *me* any worse than them illegally spying on someone else. What matters is that they were illegally spying. If others are losing their rights, the time will quickly come when we will lose ours.

Fred F.December 20, 2005 5:34 PM

@Mike Lisanke

Probably the same story as "Deep Throat" and Nixon? Again checks and balances, the 4th power which is really the People but in this case only the Media subset of it is the one that caught wind of it.

At least the people still has the right to bear arms so an Armed Militia can still protect us from a tyranical government if it indeed gets to be that bad. We see that in many countries in Europe (the balkans) and Africa, and they didn't even have those right.

Probably by the time the water is so hot that we want to use it would be too late and we won't have them.

Pity

AnonymousDecember 20, 2005 5:42 PM

"At least the people still has the right to bear arms so an Armed Militia can still protect us from a tyranical government if it indeed gets to be that bad."

In an aside, I question whether that is how the 2nd amendment was really meant to mean that, precisely. Consider the phrasing:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

If a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, then we cannot expect a free state to be secure without a militia. It does not say "necessary to the freedom of a secure state," which would rather more indicate the traditional reading. I believe that the militia is not supposed to protect us from the government so much as from foreign threats, and the federal military should be small enough that this protection is necessary, or it will wind up with too much sway.

David ThomasDecember 20, 2005 6:04 PM

It seems to me that the primary issue at stake is whether wiretapping without a warrant is considered an unreasonable search and seizure. If so, then even the Congress and the President together no authority to authorize such activity (... and in fact FISA itself may be illegal). If this is not the case, then we should start looking at the myriad other legal issues surrounding this mess, but I have not heard the issue directly addressed. Does anyone know of a precedent on the issue? I would be surprised if there wasn't one.

Mike LisankeDecember 20, 2005 6:07 PM

If 'we' are so outraged at this behavior, why didn't the large portion of we that works for the government do more about it. Anyone who is blindly following orders in the executive branch (including the military) at this time of high-alert, when accusations fly about tyrany, should consider their 'Oath of Office'. I for one do not believe our President was acting out of malice (even if he did do harm to our Constitution vsv Separation of Powers (TBD sometime later)). Our country has a mutable system of government; its being watched by 'us' constantly; I am not planning to let it fall anytime soon to tyrany; and I don't expect anyone else in this debate is planning to let that happen either. Everyone who believes that any one person is powerful enough to become a dictator in this country hasn't watch any Election Night coverage (apparent plurality). And anyone who believes that everyone in 'the government' is corrupt to the point of allowing a dictatorship doesn't realize how many people the Federal government employs. Or, is everyone just a stooge for one man?

packratDecember 20, 2005 6:36 PM

I suppose it says something about my level of paranoia that when I heard about this, my reaction was one of surprise, not that surveillance was happening, but that people had not been assuming it was happening all along.

I agree that surveillance without oversight is a bad thing and shouldn't be permitted. However, my opinion (and the various lawyers' opinions that Bruce linked to) are just that: opinions. This won't be resolved until and unless we get a judgement one way or the other by a court competent to hear the issue.

[blatant troll]Don't blame me, I voted for Cheney.[/blatant troll]

Bill McGonigleDecember 20, 2005 7:00 PM

So, the checks and balances argument is valid - there's no reason the FISA court needed to be bypassed in this situation.

But the question of patent illegality isn't that clear. From the linked article essay, the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review found "The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power."

2002 opinion here:
http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fisa/fiscr111802.html

So, I'm no legal beagle, but it sounds like a court of proper pedigree recently found that this is a legal practice.

So the laws need changing and/or clarifying but the current scope of legality is beyond the ability of [at least this] armchair judges.

I'm also still confused about why the Echelon arrangement of the Brit/Aussie/Kiwi/US spooks spying on each others' citizens wasn't employed. Seems like this could all be automated to the point of bending skillfully around any law that doesn't explicity forbid the exchange of domestic intelligence with foreign governments. That leads to the question of why we're so jumpy of a different means to an identical end.

It does appear a proper channel needs to be established to support this kind of activity, with proper checks and balances. From the NYT article: "Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches. What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program, the officials said." For those arguing that Al Qu'eda doesn't use modern communications channels, this appears to be direct contradictory evidence.

Roy OwensDecember 20, 2005 7:02 PM

@Fred F

We were told that story -- that the President is immune from prosecution while in office -- back when Congress went after Nixon, and they found a way to make that work.

When they wanted to go after Clinton, they found a way to make that work.

Now if they want to go after Bush, they can find a way to make that work.

The key is that they made it work, meaning they invented an interpretation that allowed them to do what they wanted to do.

All it takes is the will.

David ThomasDecember 20, 2005 7:06 PM

If you trust in your side, you should be all the more worried about an expansion of executive powers, because it will be your opponents who abuse it.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 20, 2005 7:53 PM

A US Senator posted a letter today that clarity is being sought from presidential scholars on whether John Dean's assertion is valid:

"Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon's counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is 'the first President to admit to an impeachable offense.' Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement."

To put things in context, Dean also said something fairly similar (about a different topic) in his book that came out earilier this year (Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, page 155):

"The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."

That could be two impeachable offenses for the President, meanwhile the Vice President somehow managed to get Senator McCain to capitulate today, and the anti-torture bill apparently now says torture can be used if the torturer deems it a reasonable interpretation of a lawful order. In other words, if the President says its ok, then it's ok. Sorry to muddy the waters, but today's news is even more shocking when you put the two announcements together.

Mr. LogicDecember 20, 2005 8:08 PM

Read the first three comments, they really jumped on this story didn't they?

I think it's perfectly logical to assume that a small group of people are hired to monitor web discussions to inject confusion and spin the facts.

I mean, that's what I would do if I was as smart as I am now, but evil. It just makes information warfare sense. Just put yourself in the shoes of an aspiring dictator, how would you plan it?

If you are a small group of people trying to make "the people" do what you want them to do, a great way is to make them believe what you want them to believe, their own brains will then make them act the wrong way. More efficient (cheaper) than violence.

Everyone knows information warfare is happening in the mainstream media. The NY Times sat on the story for a year, until elections were over. Who knows why they decided to release this info now. Same with Fox news and other huge information companies.

The way out is logical thought about information. It's difficult because the emotional parts of the brain are more powerful than your concious thought but it can be done. One trick is to take a step back and look at the situation from a higher level. That's what I like about a lot of Bruce Schneier's articles. He takes the broader view and that gives him the unclouded (non emotional) mind needed to analyze the situation. This is a trick to step out of, for example, your fear. "People are running around on earth and a small group is trying to make the bigger group do things".

A trick I would use, if I was evil, would be to give an alternative explanation to world events that is reasonably probable but which is easier emotionally to swallow than the truth.

I would do this because most people believe what they want to believe, not what is logical to believe. They choose new information with emotions, info that feels good, over info that is factual.

How many of you have done a great job at work but did not get the same recognition as someone else who just made your co-workers FEEL better? The logical thing would be to praise the person who did didn't socialize as much because he was busy doing the right thing. But brains haven't evolved this way.

That the government is good and only spying on terrorists is a belief that makes you feel better than the nauseating belief that the government is spying on it's own citizens. But is it still logical to believe that?

Don't forget information warfare in your security analyses of the current situation in your country Bruce.

To everyone else, no matter what is actually happening, analyze it with logical thought. Anyone posting arguments that aren't logical, not relevant or anyone using other manipulation to lure you into decisions that are emotionally easier should be ignored or called on their posts. I think some of those comments are paid for, it wouldn't be weird.

It's also a good idea to make summaries of the most logical information that's gathered up until now. That's what Bruce does in his articles and that's why he's making the big bucks!

(did you notice my trick?)

Now read the first three comments again.

Matthew X. EconomouDecember 20, 2005 8:11 PM

I don't like the idea of secret courts any more than the rest of you, but is there someone like our host here (as opposed to an entertainer like Limbaugh) who thinks this whole matter is reasonable? If so, what is their argument, their justification? I seem to think the cost of total surveillance is too high, even when compared to the potential cost of another 9/11, but I will gladly admit my personal politics influence this belief. What other sides are there to this debate? I'm curious.

David ThomasDecember 20, 2005 8:38 PM

"I seem to think the cost of total surveillance is too high, even when compared to the potential cost of another 9/11, but I will gladly admit my personal politics influence this belief."

Strengthening that belief... If we were to experience an attack like 9/11 monthly, it would claim fewer American lives than car accidents. If car accidents aren't worth our freedom, then *clearly* the difference between 9/11 every few years and no 9/11 at all is not, either.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/statab/mortfinal2001_work250F.pdf

Bruce SchneierDecember 20, 2005 8:55 PM

"If you trust in your side, you should be all the more worried about an expansion of executive powers, because it will be your opponents who abuse it."

Agreed. I will make this point in my Minneapolis Star-Tribune op ed, which -- hopefully -- will be published tomorrow.

Bruce SchneierDecember 20, 2005 8:56 PM

"Read the first three comments, they really jumped on this story didn't they?

"I think it's perfectly logical to assume that a small group of people are hired to monitor web discussions to inject confusion and spin the facts."

You know, I thought they were shills, but I didn't think they were hired shills. There are more than enough people willing to perform that roll for free, and without any centralized coordination.

nmDecember 20, 2005 9:09 PM

Even though we have a system of checks and balances, this system only works if all the players agree to follow the rules. What power does the judiciary have, except to issue legal rulings? What power does the legislature have, other than to make laws? Ultimately it's up the executive branch to enforce those laws and those rulings. They're the guys with the guns. Even if Congress were to impeach Bush and vote to remove him from office, who would enforce it if Bush were to refuse to leave? He is, after all, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Bush has given evidence that he doesn't believe he has to obey the law when doing so would interfere with his "war on terror." Spying on Americans without judicial oversight? Torturing prisoners in foreigh jails? Declaring Americans to be "enemy combatants" and holding them indefinitely without trial? Sorry, all necessary to fight the terrorists. I fear that it wouldn't take much more than another catastrophic terrorist attack to bring out the very worst in Bush and his administration. And I fear that too many of my fellow Americans would be perfectly willing to surrender their liberties in exchange for false assurances of protection and security.

So much for the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

PaullyDecember 20, 2005 10:29 PM

Here's a thought from someone who lives in the mythical 'international group'.

Something conspicuously absent from the diatribe above is any sort of recognition or acknowledgement that you're even part of a global system. And you're all fired up about wether your rights have been infringed on!!!

Heres an outsiders perspective, you’re getting very close to the line on the dictatorship front and you should do something about it.

Bruce SchneierDecember 20, 2005 10:54 PM

"Something conspicuously absent from the diatribe above is any sort of recognition or acknowledgement that you're even part of a global system. And you're all fired up about wether your rights have been infringed on!!!"

Agreed. Echelon is a massive international problem, and something everyone should think about. But it is not illegal under either U.S. or U.N. law. This particular issue is about breaking U.S. law.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 20, 2005 11:43 PM

@ Paully

"Something conspicuously absent from the diatribe above is any sort of recognition or acknowledgement that you're even part of a global system"

Excellent point! As Harold Pinter recently put it in his Nobel Lecture:

http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture-e.html

"I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources. The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right."

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 12:27 AM

"Even though we have a system of checks and balances, this system only works if all the players agree to follow the rules. What power does the judiciary have, except to issue legal rulings? What power does the legislature have, other than to make laws? Ultimately it's up the executive branch to enforce those laws and those rulings. They're the guys with the guns. Even if Congress were to impeach Bush and vote to remove him from office, who would enforce it if Bush were to refuse to leave? He is, after all, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces."

Who'd make him leave? Perhaps the brave men and women who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign or domestic. I don't imagine very many in our armed services would side with a President who has been impeached and convicted.

jcDecember 21, 2005 3:32 AM

>Supposedly Echelon only covers >communications outside of the United >States.

Since it is not the first time I read this
kind of discrimination between US and Non US (citizen, territory, ...),
I was simply wondering :

- do you think it is acceptable to make a distinction between the right to privacy (and unfortunately other rights) of human beings based on their nationality ? (or color, or religions, or sex or ...)


Is it not the first bias of any legislation ?


jc (obviously french !)

Tobias WeisserthDecember 21, 2005 3:49 AM

@Roy Owens:

"Bush publicly confessed. Why hasn't he been arrested?"

He got away with starting a war and invading a country by telling a lie. If he can get away with that without being sent to hell, why do you think his confession should put him into misery now?

I guess something like that makes people bolder. Or maybe it's just the American people that doesn't care about the condition of their democracy.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 5:48 AM

"If he can get away with that without being sent to hell, why do you think his confession should put him into misery now?"

That is not a judgement for us to make. Impeachment, on the other hand...

erasmusDecember 21, 2005 5:53 AM

So its "only international calls" affected by failure to follow due process?
What sort of confidence does this give a European like me, who lives in a closely allied country, with strong transatlantic commercial, social and family links?

It is proper that communications are subject to eavesdropping where there are grounds for monitoring "illegality". However, there have already been documented instances of US monitoring being done for commercial purposes (='national interest'?) and application of heavy-handed extra-territorial laws in 'friendly' countries.
Meanwhile the rest of us in the English-speaking world are seemingly picked out more often because the NSA's translation skills are poor!

Until and unless the US can once again get its act together then we have to be careful how much of our systems over here are potentially compromised by reliance on infrastructre that is inadvertantly exposing us to a new range of risks.

Nobby NutsDecember 21, 2005 7:06 AM

Frankly, the US has been happy to invade the rest of our liberties for so long, it's good to see that some of their citizens might be getting a taste of their own government's medicine. It's disgusting that many of you are so upset that the surveillance carried out on a routine basis against foreign (to you) nationals might be carried out by your own government against you. Your constitution that is supposed to protect you is a valuable thing, but it is completely degraded when the principles apparently do not apply to the rest of the world. America claims the be a world leader - lead by example, then, and not by arrogance. If you treated us lesser humans in the way you expect to treat your own citizenry, you'd have a far better image in the rest of the world.

concerned citizenDecember 21, 2005 10:34 AM

This is the most corrupt administration in US history, far surpassing even the Nixon gang.

This is just one instance where they were actually caught breaking the law. Just imagine how much they have gotten away with, all disguised as the fight against terrorism.

nmDecember 21, 2005 11:55 AM

"If you treated us lesser humans in the way you expect to treat your own citizenry, you'd have a far better image in the rest of the world."

Yes, this is part of the problem. All too often, Americans tend to think of themselves as superior to the rest of the world, as in "America is still the greatest nation on Earth." This assumption that every other country wants to be like America is what gives people like Bush and Cheney the idea that America can invade whatever country it chooses, and the people will greet us as liberators.

peachpuffDecember 21, 2005 12:41 PM

@Nobby Nuts
"It's disgusting that many of you are so upset that the surveillance carried out on a routine basis against foreign (to you) nationals might be carried out by your own government against you."

I'm sure most of those foreign nationals come from countries that spy on us. It's irritating, and I think they shouldn't do it. But it's not nearly as bad as when they break the law to spy on their own citizens. I think that's equally wrong no matter who it happens to, but I'm extra angry when it happens to me.

Nobby NutsDecember 21, 2005 2:09 PM

@peachpuff
"I'm sure most of those foreign nationals come from countries that spy on us."

That may be true to a degree, but it none the less true that the US routinely uses methods that would be illegal inisde the US outside the country. More insidiously, if recent news reports are to be believed, they deliberately remove people, or at least keep them away, from US juristiction so that they *can* use otherwise illegal techniques. At least your average thirld world dictatorship does it at home - no double standards there.

Could the prison at Guantanamo Bay exist inside the mainland US? How would America react if, for example, Iran started locking up US citizens, accusing them of terrorism and not subjecting them to trial? They didn't like it last time it happened, I suspect they'd take an even dimmer view now.

How can you trust a government who so openly perpetrates these things on the rest of the world *not* do do it to their own people if they feel they need to?

another_bruceDecember 21, 2005 5:40 PM

yesterday afternoon i posted on this thread that i suspected purely domestic calls were being monitored too.
my suspicion was confirmed in today's san francisco chronicle:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=c/a/2005/12/21/MNGQ6GB5LM1.DTL
general michael hayden, america's second ranking intelligence official, was quoted at a white house briefing last week as follows:
"The authorization given to NSA by the president requires that one end of these communications be outside the United States. I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct these activities that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."
which makes general hayden, from where i sit, look like a god-damned liar.
i told you so!

David GawDecember 21, 2005 9:47 PM

> “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
> It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.��?
> -- William Pitt, House of Commons, 11/18/1783.

Then there's this one. "Use their systems, passports, citizenship, laws, traditions, books and media, create internal divisions among them, and inflict defeat on the kuffars [infidels], for in the current balance of power, all we need to do is to use their weaknesses as our strength."
-- Abul ala’ - Al-Ansar chat room, September 2005.

Security is, as Bruce has observed elsewhere, a balance. It's hard to say if we're falling victim to the risk posed in the first quote--but the tactic outlined in the latter certainly seems to be working famously...

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 9:55 PM

Here's a simple letter you should send Senator Specter if you think Congress should investigate this issue:

-----------------------------------
Senator Arlen Specter
U.S. Senate
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0001

Subject: Investigate President Bush's Illegal Wiretaps


Dear Senator Specter:

I urge you to hold thorough public hearings into the program of secret, warrant-less wiretaps authorized by President Bush since 2001.

The egregious and repeated violation of American civil liberties by President Bush and his Administration requires a thorough Congressional investigation. That is why I urge you to hold hearings before you take up Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Protecting Americans from terrorism here at home must be the top priority of any Administration, but it can be achieved without the President violating the Constitution. That is why Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. The Act enables national security programs while still preserving civil liberties.

You must find out why President Bush consciously violated federal law, even though the Act clearly states that FISA "shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance...and the interception of domestic wire and oral communications may be conducted".

Congress must act to thoroughly investigate the President's actions.

Sincerely,

-----------------------------------
Copy, print, sign and mail today.

peachpuffDecember 22, 2005 12:09 AM

@Nobby Nuts

"How can you trust a government who so openly perpetrates these things on the rest of the world *not* do do it to their own people if they feel they need to?"

Obviously we, the U.S. citizens who object to this eavesdropping, do not trust them. Otherwise we wouldn't care whether they got a warrant. You're so eager to see a double standard that you're not looking at the plain meaning of people's words, so I'll strip it down:

Spying on people for no good reason (the sort of good reason that gets you a warrant) is bad. Removing checks on government power is bad. Kidnapping and torturing people is much worse. Doing either of those to your own citizens is even worse than doing it to someone else's because it's a breach of trust and undermines public control of government. Many U.S. citizens have consistently criticized all combinations of the above, by the U.S. government and others. Please don't obscure their legitimate objections by falsely accusing them of hypocrisy.

Nobby NutsDecember 22, 2005 3:02 AM

@peachpuff
"Doing either of those to your own citizens is even worse than doing it to someone else's because it's a breach of trust and undermines public control of government."

The only part I disagree with is "even worse". You have the ability to remove your government if it breaches your trust, but I, or any other citizen of a foreign contry have no such recourse, as likewise you have no such recourse against my government. Arguably, that makes it "even worse" for your government (or mine) to act "illegally" outside your (or my) court's juristiction. (I use "" because if it's outside the court's juristiction technically it's not illegal I guess) I can do nothing if your government decides to spy on me - I can't use the courts, I can't vote your government out of office, I can't seek to impeach your president. You can do all those things.

If the US government wants to win he hearts and minds of the world, it should lead by example, and treat everyone with the same respect and under the same standards. Oh, of course, given the subject of this blog entry I guess perhaps it does ;-)

Jim HyslopDecember 22, 2005 8:22 AM

"Who'd make him leave? Perhaps the brave men and women who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign or domestic. I don't imagine very many in our armed services would side with a President who has been impeached and convicted."

Let's assume the worst case happens: Congress votes to impeach Bush; he refuses to leave office and uses the military to support him. Yes, there will be some who will refuse to obey, but there will be some who will support the president.

I'm not an American citizen, but the thought of a civil war scares the hell out of me: the world-wide ramifications would be huge.

And the terrorists will have won their war, without firing any further shots.

David ThomasDecember 22, 2005 11:00 AM

"The only part I disagree with is "even worse". You have the ability to remove your government if it breaches your trust, but I, or any other citizen of a foreign contry have no such recourse, as likewise you have no such recourse against my government. Arguably, that makes it "even worse" for your government (or mine) to act "illegally" outside your (or my) court's juristiction. (I use "" because if it's outside the court's juristiction technically it's not illegal I guess) I can do nothing if your government decides to spy on me - I can't use the courts, I can't vote your government out of office, I can't seek to impeach your president. You can do all those things."

The reason why such things perpetrated against one's own citizens is worse is precisely because we have the power to remove them from office - these are the tools they need to strip us of that power, and then there would be no one to check other abuses.

David ThomasDecember 22, 2005 11:03 AM

"And the terrorists will have won their war, without firing any further shots."

This is equally true if we do not halt this march toward tyrrany. It is Bush who is fighting to give them that victory, not us who would protect our liberty.

radiantmatrixDecember 23, 2005 10:56 AM

I have no respect for the man George W. Bush. I do, however, respect the office he was elected to and the process and theories of government that placed him in the Oval Office.

I see two primary types of commentary on this: "Bush committed an illegal act, why isn't he being punished?", and "What Bush did was fine and within the bounds of the law, this is just political."

Both extremes are ridiculous. Anyone who really has respect for what this country stands for will remember a few important things:

* No one, not even the President, is above the law. If Bush really did something illegal, he can and should be punished for it.

* The American people elected Bush to office, and therefore have the right to call his official activities into question. Considering the allegations, I am stunned that Congress has not yet launched a formal and public investigation.

* The principle of "innocent until proven guilty" is precious. Bush may have admitted to an act, but until it is appropriately proven through due process that the act was illegal, Busy *allegedly* acted illegally. Let's not forget that in the ire over the act itself.

EmanymtonDecember 27, 2005 1:17 PM

Well, I have nothing to hide, so I could care less if the government is tapping my phone. Let them knock themselves out. I am sure they could really care less about any or your personal business unless it is something that will raise some eyebrows.

SchneelockeJanuary 16, 2006 9:17 AM

Hi,

I'd like to point out a small mistake in the above. You write:

"Over 200 years ago, the framers of the U.S. Constitution established an
ingenious security device against tyrannical government: they divided
government power among three different bodies. A carefully thought out
system of checks and balances in the executive branch, the legislative
branch, and the judicial branch, ensured that no single branch became
too powerful."

Now, that's not technically incorrect, but somewhat confusing, as it
may lead readers to believe that the separation of powers was actually
"invented" by the USA's founding fathers, so I think it's worth
pointing out that it actually goes back to Montesquieu, a French
philosopher from the 18th century.

Just thought I'd mention that - credit where credit is due.

Thanks, and thanks for keeping us informed about security matters! :)

bobJanuary 26, 2006 4:47 PM

I think that their should be more actual info on this debate so people can learn more about it and actually have the real facts.

@ KDJanuary 26, 2006 4:54 PM

IF there were a little more information people would know the story a little better and wouldn't like make stuff up and post it on the internet like i have already noticed there would be less rumors and people could debate over it more so that would be good? I don't know it also might cause more trouble for the officials

AnonymousMarch 21, 2006 4:19 PM

I think this is just down right an invadsion of te peoples privitcy. The president is over stepping his boundaries. Regraudless of him having to protect the people, it is just not right. Well then again I don't know why it's a shock to everyone. everythings been tapped without you knowing for years. So its really not all Bushes fought if you think about. But still you can't blame it on dead president right. And then again it is his fought. you know why? Because he kept it going and didn't stop to think how we the people would feel about it.

JohnMarch 30, 2006 8:46 AM

I'm doing a research paper on illegal wire tapping and I just wanted to thank ya'll for leaving your dang comments, you rock. peace out, John

AshleyOctober 20, 2006 12:03 AM

When you get right down to it, this is what i think is the most important stuff:

bush does not comply with the laws of this country.
We are losing our liberties, not slowly.
And NO it isn't a radical idea to see this country headed toward tyranny, or dictatorship.
ORGANIZATION OF THE PEOPLE
Or America will fall just like Greece

Mr. Jeffrey EvansOctober 23, 2006 6:04 PM

How do I contact the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established under the FISA, about who has juristiction to review U.S. electronic surveillance programs that seek to obtain foreign intelligence information in the U.S. Is there an email address I could use to contact these people ! Thank you, Mr. Evans

NobodyMay 20, 2008 2:29 AM

I'm interested in how the 2008 presidential nominees feel about our personal privacy and security. How do they feel about these warrantless searches and eavesdropping? And who do you personally think will be the best as protecting our basic civil liberties?

If anyone has any thoughts, opinions or if Mr. Schneier has already written an article, please let's hear it.

JimRJuly 16, 2008 2:21 AM

I find the distinction between the interception of domestic-US and international messages somewhat disingenuous - I remember reading about an arrangement between the US and non-US Echelon operators. To sum it up, the Brits would do the eavesdropping on American (including domestic communications) for us and we would return the favor for them. No US law would be broken.

unequal rights of a citizenMarch 3, 2011 7:30 PM

Due to illegal wiretapping, coworkers talk about what she ate, what and how much she did at home, where she went, and what she talked. They can talk enormously about and against her daily but she won’t know. But if she said something about a worker to her family member, they conspire to sue her. At work, they create group set up against her but she cannot say even a single word. When other person is mistreating her, they will reverse the truth and call their security guards and police to arrest her due to their employer power and group power. She is in threat every day. Isn’t unequal rights.

defamedMarch 7, 2011 8:45 PM

Abuse of electronic surveillance/monitoring. The employers own (hire) some powerful authorities in central office and quick seconds’ access to the in local offices along with security guards their buildings. Once any baseless suspicion is created, it gives power to a group of numerous people to be on guard against the innocent victim and among these callers can some hidden criminals who become powerful to offend the innocent due to monitoring. The clerical staff is well equipped to spread authorities and security guards as quick as possible, as often as necessary and for unlimited period of time against this innocent victim, perhaps due to interest of some office employees for gossip, due to ill will of some, benefit or they are hiding something of their own. There is always an indirect threat of dismissal, not giving slight bonus money by saying, “sin” ?????, preventing promotion by calling …. Those who are her friends are whispered as if she will be falsely ARRESTED?????? Why all this - just because of the power to have higher ones ready against her wherever they want. We do have surplus of these people and many investigators need business so they have to disseminate personal and private information though genuine so that they can prove that they spent time in investigation otherwise how they will prove. The employer does not confidentiality law not to share an employee’s personal information to anyone else. They enjoy her harm, her disrespect, and defamation.

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