Category Archives: The PATRIOT Act

Dump the Dems (10): Obama Morphs Into Bush Over Presidential Power

Obama’s actions are, at best, a mixed blessing so far. He has surrounded himself with establishmentarian Blue Dogs and Democrat conservatives, from his powerful Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, to Treas Sec Timmy Geithner (a Wall Street Willie if ever there was one), Leon Panetta at the CIA, and Larry Summers as a Presidential Advisor. While he has talked eloquently about Wall Street’s responsibility for the mess, he insisted in $billions$ in bail-out money to moribund, clueless auto CEO’s and is about to hand over another $30B to AIG because, you know, it ran through the first $100B paying for parties and executive bonuses.

But all of that was prelude to the real danger. It puts in context a much more conservative agenda. In “Dump the Dems 6” I warned, “The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs.” Obama seems to be going out of his way to prove it. Glenn Greenwald again reports on the heels of Marcy Wheeler’s excellent summation of the recent moves by the Obama Admin to make exactly the same arguments of presidential power that Bush made.

[T]he Obama DOJ is now spouting the Cheney/Addington view of government in its purest and most radical expression. 


The brief filed by Obama on Friday afternoon (.pdf) has to be read to believed.  It is literally arguing that no court has the power to order that classified documents be used in a judicial proceeding; instead, it is the President — and the President alone — who possesses that decision-making power under Article II, and no court order is binding on the President to the extent it purports to direct that such information be made available for use in a judicial proceeding. 

(emphasis added)

What I’ve been afraid of is happening right now. Obama and the conservative Democrat leadership are fighting to preserve the very same power Obama criticized Bush for taking, using the same autocratic arguments that Bush used. Does it make them right just because a Democrat says them?

Of course not.

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The Latest Democratic Turncoat and the Impeachment Follies

In the days since Rahm Emanuel’s phone orgy, Democratic support for Bush/neocon policies in Iraq has strengthened and at least one Rep, Jerry McNerney from California, has already reversed his position. Now comes news via Think Progress of a second: Washington’s Brian Baird.

Baird was one of the few Dem Reps who voted against the invasion originally but has been relatively quiet about his opposition to the occupation since. Now that he is supporting the surge, though, as TP put it, “there doesn’t appear to be a camera or microphone that Baird will refuse to speak to.” And most of them are right-wing outlets – Tucker Carlson and the National Review, for instance.

Baird, nationally an unknown, is suddenly in the limelight, his turnaround trumpeted all over the media, after several years of all-but-invisible opposition. And all it took was a single phone call from Rahm.

Tell me again that the Democratic support of Bush, from economic policy to trade policy to foreign policy to illegal surveillance is the result of individual consciences or the Fear Factor.

One more slightly related observation:

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Maybe the Dems Want Authoritarian Powers

Digby is befuddled by the Democrats’ race to authorize more wiretapping power to a patently untrustworthy administration.

Let’s set aside the idea that “trusting” the Bush administration with warrantless wiretaps is like trusting your four year old with a zippo lighter, what kind of bucket-of-lukewarm-spit kind of politics is this? What are they afraid of, that the Bush administration will blame them if a terrorist attack occurs and they didn’t approve another blank check? Guess what? It wouldn’t matter if the Democrats named Bush king with the power to draw and quarter hippies and Muslims on the white house lawn, they will still blame the Democrats if there is another terrorist attack.

I do not know what this latest program is, but whatever it is, it needs to be approved by somebody other than the White House. I’m sorry, but that should be non-negotiable. Dick Cheney has delegated to himself virtually limitless power and he is borderline insane. The executive branch cannot be trusted with additional power of any kind. They have quite enough, thank you.

(emphasis in the original)

Avedon Carol writes at Eschaton (where she was sitting in for Atrios) wondering about lambert’s question at corrente: why aren’t the Dems explicitly condemning the Bush Admin’s anti-Constitutionality and promising to restore the rights Bushies have stolen from us?

The Democrats are under tremendous pressure from the right-wing spinnners on The Hill and their media handmaidens to ignore these important issues. They’re going to ask them about haircuts and cleavage.
So, when we have a chance to get them to talk about important questions, we’d damn well better take it.
We have to push back. That’s what democracy is all about: We have to tell them what we want – and when they are running for office, we have to ask them how they plan to give us what we want.

eRobin at Fact-esque, who was, as usual, ahead of everybody, wrote last week:

I want all the presidential candidates  to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistence on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.

Putting these two concerns together raises a disturbing question, and since it seems to be my function to think the unthinkable and verbalize the thoughts no one else wants to admit having, I will do my duty and turn over the rock.

The Democrats, like everyone else in the known world, are assuming that the White House will belong to them in ’09. Given the Pubs’ apparent determination to self-destruct by strenuously opposing a withdrawal from Iraq and obstructing legislation everybody wants, like the SCHIP expansion, even as they demand more debt-borrowing to finance energy companies, it’s entirely possible that for once they’re right. So:

Is it conceivable that Democrats are reluctant to explicitly condemn the unConstitutional powers assumed by our imperial president because at some level they themselves wants access to at least some of those powers when they gain control again?

The answer, I’m afraid, is Yes.

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DNI McConnell Wants Expansion of Overseas Eavesdropping Program

Some days one wonders if these people have any sense at all – if they ever did.

Despite serious questions about the Bush Administration’s routine violations of FISA and the legality of their wiretapping programs in general, Adm Mike McConnell, who took over as Bush’s Director of National Intelligence just this past February, has, incredibly, sent a letter to Democratic Bush-Buddy Sylvester Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asking for permission to intercept overseas messages between “terrorists”.

Citing a “period of heightened threat” to the U.S. homeland, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asked Congress to “act immediately” to make changes in current law to permit the interception of messages between terrorist targets overseas, which he said now requires burdensome court orders.

In a July 25 letter made public yesterday, McConnell told the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), that he hopes Congress “will be able to act immediately . . . to provide the legislative changes needed to protect the nation in this period of heightened threat.”

At issue is a package of changes that the Bush administration wants in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to facilitate the continuation of its terrorist surveillance program. Congress has delayed amending the program pending further study.

Stepping up the pressure on lawmakers after the recently released terrorist threat assessment, McConnell said that “clarifications are urgently needed” in the law to enable the use of “our capabilities to collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets overseas without requirements imposed by an out-of-date FISA statute.”

He added, “As the head of our nation’s intelligence community, I am obligated to provide warning of threats of terrorist activity, and I have deep concern about the current threat situation.”

The underlying question hinges on modern technology: When communications between one foreign-located source and another foreign-located source travel through a U.S.-located terminal or switch, can they be intercepted without a warrant?

For those of you not intelligence experts, a little background:

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Stealing ’08: Why Tim Griffin’s Appointment Was So Important

I have been hinting (here and here) that the Gonzo tumult is a distraction from the main event: Karl Rove’s use of the Justice Dept to provide cover for his planned theft of the 2008 election. While the Congress – and the country – wastes its time and energy trying to get Gonzo Al to resign (we know Bush won’t fire him under any circumstances), Rove’s USA replacements are gearing up for an election full of dirty tricks and illegal rights-embezzling.

Why, for example, was it so damned important to get a legal non-entity like Tim Griffin into a USA spot in a potential swing state that Harriet Miers was willing to pressure top Rove political aide Sara Taylor (who resigned today, perhaps feeling the investigators breathing down her neck and seeing the writing on the wall) to lean on Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling to fire Bud Cummins so Timmy could have his job?

Let’s see, shall we?

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The Week in Bush: Gitmo, Warrantless Wiretaps, and Inspecting Inspectors (Updated)

This has been a week in which the Bushies have pulled out all the stops. Under siege from every direction, it seems, up to and including their own party, and in the face of scandals, investigations, and tumbling approval numbers, the White House has significantly stepped up its war against – us.

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The FBI and NSLs 6: Definitely Don’t Trust Mueller

If you needed any more proof that Bob Mueller’s FBI can’t be trusted from the head down, here it is:

NOW WE KNOW why the government failed to stop 9/11. Embattled FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee last week that what prevented his agency from halting the attack was its inability to issue warrant-less search orders with the profligacy of a parking ticket officer.

If only it had the currently available unfettered “national security letter” authority to run through personal information data bases without judicial oversight, Mueller suggested, the FBI would have found 9/11 terrorist Khalid al Midhar and through him the other Al Qaeda conspirators. Really?

Midhar was one of the 9/11 terrorists. When he entered the United States, the CIA knew it and knew he was an Al Qaeda terrorist. An FBI agent at the CIA knew he was in the country. Months later FBI headquarters was told, but the agents working the case never told the FBI leadership or the White House.

So what does Mueller want us to believe now, that when the CIA finally told the FBI that Midhar was in the United States that it was the bureau’s difficulty in getting a warrant on a known Al Qaeda terrorist that was responsible for its failure to find him?

Pretty thin, ay? Mueller seems to be in BushPuppet mode, dutifully attempting to shore up the Emperor’s anti-democratic, authoritarian dicta with bogus claims and typical Rove Administration reliance on 9/11 to explain and excuse everything.

Not going to work this time, boys and girls. We won’t be fooled again.

SCOTUS Score: One and One

The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.

1. Detainee Suit Rejected

The SCOTUS won’t be hearing a suit filed by almost 400 Gitmo prisoners trying to restore the legal rights taken away from them by Bush and the Republican Congress.

The court decision was a significant victory for President Bush, who has asserted for nearly six years that the fate of hundreds of detainees, held without charges as alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, should be determined by secret military tribunals. The decision leaves intact, at least for now, a measure passed at the administration’s urging last year when Congress still was in Republican hands that denies Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to such habeas corpus petitions.

This despite the fact that the Court has ruled not once but twice in the last three years that the detainees have the right to petition the courts to “contest their detention”. Continue reading

The FBI and NSLs 4: Not Operating in a Vacuum

The FBI is still pretending that their use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain information unconnected in any way with national security was a matter of sloppy paperwork and/or “haste”, excuses that don’t even begin to explain either the high numbers of “mistakes” or the constant lies.

FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, prompting officials to tighten controls on the way the bureau uses that powerful anti-terrorism tool, according to Justice Department and FBI officials.

The errors were pervasive enough that the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, wrote the Justice Department in December 2005 to complain. She raised the possibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroom that the information they were providing was accurate, a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically.

Forced to acknowledge the extent of the abuses (as many as 10% of the warrants contained inaccuracies, and possibly a lot more – exact numbers aren’t yet available although IG Fine estimates that as many as 3000 violations may have occurred over the last 3 years), the FBI’s management has moved from minimizing the problem to blaming poor supervision.

In the use of both national security letters and the FISA warrant applications, officials acknowledged that the problems resulted from agents’ haste or sloppiness — or both — and that there was inadequate supervision.”We’ve oftentimes been better at setting the rules than we have been at establishing the internal controls and audits necessary to enforce them,” FBI Assistant Director John Miller said.

But they didn’t “set the rules”, that’s the whole point. What we have here is a process that ignored the rules to get what it wanted. The very same “mistakes” were made on surveillance warrants as were made on NSLs, so the argument that the NSLs got screwed up because agents weren’t used to using them is bullshit.

And what can you say about the idea that after 50 years FBI agents still don’t know how to fill out a surveillance request correctly without supervision?

As disturbing as the lies and weak excuses are, what’s even more disturbing are the way and the reasons they were used. Continue reading

The FBI and NSLs 3: How High Does it Go?

Yesterday I asked a couple of simple and, I thought, fairly obvious questions:

Were there any lawyers among the dozen members of the elite CAU [Communications Analysis Unit – MA] responsible for the NSLs? If so, why didn’t they respond to the concerns of the Bureau’s legal staff? And even if there weren’t, how could a slew of “counter-terrorism experts” fail to notice when asking for emergency powers that there was no actual terrorist emergency?

To answer the second question, it turns out there were and they didn’t. In fact, Bassem Youssef, a CT expert with a covert background and several successes to his credit, was in charge of the CAU at the time and says he not only noticed, he “raised concerns with superiors”.

Stephen M. Kohn, the lawyer for Mr. Youssef, said his client told his superiors that the bureau had frequently failed to document an urgent national security need — proving “exigent circumstances,” in the bureau’s language — when obtaining personal information without a court order through the use of “national security letters.”

Mr. Youssef said his superiors had initially minimized the scope of the problem and the likely violation of laws intended to protect privacy, Mr. Kohn said.

“He identified the problems in 2005, shortly after he became unit chief,” Mr. Kohn said. “As in other matters, he was met with apathy and resistance.”


Mr. Kohn said that Mr. Youssef had had a long familiarity with national security letters from earlier work on counterterrorism investigations, and that he began reviewing recent letters and spotting legal deficiencies almost immediately.

“It was the same issue that was in the inspector general’s report,” Mr. Kohn said Sunday. “They didn’t have the proper legal justifications in writing to back up their searches.”

If Mr Youssef was in charge of the CAU and most of the disputed NSLs were submitted by the CAU, why didn’t he simply stop them? Why didn’t he call in the agents who were improperly filing and sending the NSLs and order them to correct the procedure or cease using them?

To answer those questions, we have to know the answers to two other key questions:

  1. Who were the “superiors” in question? Mueller? Or does it go higher?
  2. Why did Youssef feel it necessary to express his “concerns” about the NSLs to them? It was his department, he was in charge, why not just end the abuse?

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The FBI and NSLs 2: The “Accident” Excuse Unravels (Updated)

As predicted, the DoJ IG’s conclusion that the FBI’s illegal use of NSLs did not constitute a crime is being called into question, and by a Republican no less.

Referring to the exigent circumstance letters, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine: “It is . . . difficult to imagine why there should not have been swift and severe consequences for anyone who knowingly signed . . . a letter containing false statements. Anyone at the FBI who knew about that kind of wrongdoing had an obligation to put a stop to it and report it immediately.”

Yes, of course they did, but report it to who? Alberto?

Charlie’s sudden concern for the possibly illegal use of the NSLs after 6 years of sitting obediently on his ass and watching the Bush Administration and the Justice Dept play fast-and-loose with the Constitution arose yesterday when it came to light that the FBI’s own legal staff were expressing doubts about the way the NSLs were being handled as early as 2004.

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BushCo Wants to Know What You’re Reading–And They Want to Know Bad

One of the most egregious and least defensible sections of the PATRIOT Act was protected from an assault by civil libertarians and moderate Republicans when the radical House leadership delayed a vote–again–while they muscled enough dissidents to make a tie vote on an amendment that would have stopped the govt from having access to library and bookstore records about who’s reading what.

At issue was one provision of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed by huge bipartisan margins after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The amendment would have blocked a section of the act that requires libraries, booksellers and others to release information about the reading habits of people under government investigation using a lesser standard of probable cause than is required under a normal criminal investigation.The American Library Assn., which supported the amendment, has called that section of the act “a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.”

The American Booksellers Assn. joined the ALA and the PEN American Center, a writers organization, in urging passage of the amendment.

After GOP leaders prevailed, the lead Republican advocate of the amendment, Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho), told reporters, “You win some, and some get stolen.”

Stealing is a way of life for radical Republicans. They stole the Presidential election of 2000 to get their puppet in the White House; ‘Refridgerator’ Frist and Tom ‘The Hammer’ DeLay have strong-armed, intimidated, and threatened members of their own party to get their way; the WH Attack Machine has viciously slimed and slandered dissenters without regard for either truth or civility; and the House leadership in particular has been forceful about changing the rules to give themselves far more power than ever before in its history.

This is a tiny bill, a tiny change in a huge and largely un-Constitutional law that would hardly affect investigations in any real sense despite the lies its advocates have been spreading:

“Lives have been saved, terrorists have been disrupted and our country is safer” because of the Patriot Act, said Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Not one word in that declaration has any truth whatever to it but as it has been for three years, that doesn’t matter to the radcons. What matters is getting their way and their way depends heavily on control over your life through invading your privacy. The next step for a fascist govt is a small one: from profiling you by what you read to banning what they don’t want you to read.

What’s encouraging about this is that moderate Republicans are finally starting to rebel against the extremism of the BA’S incessant power-grabs and gobbling-up of rights we’ve been able to take for granted for more than two centuries. They lost this one but it’s getting harder to keep them in line; the more extreme the actions and demands of the radcons, the more muscle it takes to win even a small victory like this. But they’d better focus their little rebellion quickly; if Bush wins in November, they’re going to find themselves irrelevant the following day.

This isn’t a fascist govt yet; it’s a govt with fascist leanings–Ashcroft would have been right at home under Franco or Mussolini–but in a second administration, with nothing left to lose or protect, they will go for it all and the devil take the hindmost. That they put that much energy behind defeating an amendment that virtually no one but them supports and that hasn’t led to a single substantial piece of anti-terrorist information EVER, is a sign of how far they’ll go to control what people read and hear and see in the name of gathering power.

Why Do Conservatives Hate the Constitution?

The question is meant as a parody, of course, but it’s also a serious question. Where pod-people like Sean Hannity insist that liberals ‘hate America’ but can’t offer either reasons or evidence of any such thing (last time Hannity admitted that he didn’t know why liberals hate America, ‘they just do’; in right-wing whacko-land, this hateful proposition is so obvious it apparently doesn’t need anything resembling evidence or reason), any one of us could come up with a dozen major proofs–evidence, actions, actual proof–that conservatives a) have patently never read the Constitution; b) didn’t understand it if they have; or c) read it and understood it but don’t much care for it.

Republican reactionaries, led by The Hammer, rammed through the PATRIOT Act so fast that nobody forced to vote on it had time to read more than the title, and this was a law that used 9/11 and ‘national security’ to excuse warping, limiting, undercutting, and re-writing out of existence key provisions of the Consitution these ‘representatives of the public’ swore an oath to ‘protect and defend’. The new conservative mantra–‘9/11 changed everything’–hardly excuses much less explains the lifting and/or corroding of key Constitutional provisions like the necessity for warrants, the right of the accused to a speedy trial or access to a lawyer that were denied Wilson in WWI and FDR in WWII, both much more serious wars than the WOT (ie, thay actually were wars, not insurgencies resulting from juvenile neocon adventurist fantasies of world domination for the naked corporatist purpose of controlling the flow of oil).

But even if we accept the mantra–and there is some truth to it, though not nearly as much as they like to pretend–the fact of the matter is that Publican reactionaries have never been terribly comfortable with the Constitution or its protections as soon as it strays from what they imagine are its ‘No Taxation’ roots. They like the idea of ‘freedom’ but they’re uncomfortable and even appalled by its messy consequences, and their concept of ‘liberty’ seems to revolve heavily around removing it from anyone of whom they don’t approve. Since the end of WWII when their incipient paranoia over the imagined threat of the Soviet Union grew into an obsession, they have been more than willing, eager to remove those portions of the Constitution that might be used to protect ‘commie sympathizers’. When the Viet Nam war exposed a cultural rift between the ‘Greatest Generation’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) and the ‘Hippest Generation’ the size of the Grand Canyon, their first instinct was to call out the dogs: they wanted demonstrators thrown in prison by the police or shot down in the streets by the National Guard, and they didn’t much care which.

Republican policies over the years have almost always favored the restriction of personal freedom and curbs on personal liberty to one degree on another while favoring the expansion of corporate freedom and removing the ‘chains’ of corporate responsibility. It is as if they see the Constitution ‘through a glass darkly’, only dimly aware of its core concerns and blurry on both its use and its purpose. One gets the feeling after 50 or so years that if they could trade this Constitution’s unfortunate and inconvenient emphasis on the individual for a more corporate-friendly emphasis on oligarchic entitlements, they would see that not as the ultimate corruption of the American promise but as a decided improvement skewed more toward their idea of the proper focus of society: protecting the power and riches of the Haves.

It seems reasonable on the 4th of July, the date when we have decided to celebrate our rebellion from monarchy, to ask how conservatives can love this country so much when they so detest the foundation on which that country is based? How can you love America at the same time you hate what is best about it? what sets it apart? what makes people all over the world–or did before Junior got his hands on the machinery and perverted it beyond all recognition–see democracy, our democracy, as their best hope for a decent future?

Because they are, that’s undeniable. Oh, not that they would copy it word-for-word, only that they realize that their only hope lies in replacing class societies in which rights and freedoms are the exclusive property of the propertied class with societies in which all classes receive equal treatment under the law and all people have the same rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.

And yet, at a time when ordinary people all over the world are reaching toward the democratic ideal that we used to represent to them, the radical conservatives in the Republican Party are desperately trying to return the US–Home to those aspirations for 2 1/4 centuries–to the rules and priviliges of a de facto monarchy with themselves in the role of the ruling nobles to whom the plebian serfs must doff their caps and tug their forelocks in feigned respect. It seems pretty clear from their actions that if they were jumped back in time to the early 1770’s, it wouldn’t be the dirty, rebellious, ‘rabble’ represented by Sam Adams and Tom Paine that they’d be identifying with and supporting.

If that seems unkind or ‘polemical’, how else could you explain the radcon love affair with John Ashcroft’s near-fascist belief that law is nothing but a tool of the powerful and they can do what they want with it? Or Cheney’s broad-based, ‘I’m above all that’ contempt for the rules and regulations of civilized behaviour? Or Junior’s patented preference for imperial prerogatives and monarchical pretensions? These guys don’t just want a return to monarchical values, they want to return to pre-Magna Carta monarchical values when the law was what the nobles said it was and droit-de signieur was in full flower. It’s as if they regret being born too late to play Feudal Lord of the Manor and they want their shot at it.

And yet these are the people who will shout the loudest today, wave more flags and wear more lapel pins while viciously attacking more democratic values than any random 10,000 ‘liberals’ put together. Shouldn’t they be celebrating the Queen’s Birthday or something more appropriate than a day that belongs to an idea of freedom they despise and will outlaw first chance they get?

And shouldn’t it concern us that the followers of George II have more in common with the Tory followers of George III than with Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson?

Seems like it to me.

More Criminals Than Terrorists

The evidence has been growing practically from the day the PATRIOT Act was passed that law enforcement agencies have been using its provisions to trap criminal suspects rather than suspected terrorists. No particular surprise there, we all knew they would. What we didn’t expect is that it would turn out there were more terrorists than criminals in America.

WASHINGTON — Secret surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases have eclipsed criminal wiretaps for the first time, and the statistics are raising red flags among open government advocates.Federal and state courts approved a total of 1,442 interceptions of wire, oral or electronic communications for criminal cases in 2003, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts last week. By comparison, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued 1,724 warrants in terrorism and espionage cases last year, according to recently released Justice Department figures.

The targets of the terrorism and espionage warrants approved by the ultra-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are never informed about their surveillance.

The warrants last far longer than those issued by other courts, with little oversight to ensure intelligence is being gathered. And they can be approved even if law enforcement agents do not meet standards of probable cause for a criminal case.

“That these warrants are becoming the major form of surveillance in this country is very troubling,” said Tim Edgar, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office. “They are shifting surveillance from a court where there is less secrecy, more oversight and a probable cause standard to a court where there is more secrecy, no oversight and no probable cause statute.”

The major reason for the large number is, of course, the ultra-low standard of proof. I’d be willing to bet that if we saw a list of the suspects’ names (we won’t), virtually all of them would have Arabic or Arabic-sounding surnames. Since 9/11, some 90% of the people arrested, detained, or deported for having suspected ties to ‘terrorist organizations’ have been either Arabs or Sikhs (who look like Arabs to profilers). They have been denied lawyers, hearings, and in many cases explanations for their treatment. Researchers who have looked into the groups on the govt’ watch-list say it includes charitable organizations that have never had a hint of irregularity attached to them; Arab-American leaders say many of the deportees were doing no more than sending money home to their families; and all say that at the very least the whole process is a mish-mosh of inaccurate information, incomplete investigation, and innuendo passing as evidence.

The high number of wiretaps revealed today suggests very strongly that in the wake of the failure to detect the 9/11 cabal, law enforcement agencies are going on massive fishing expeditions, and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is letting them do it. It may have no choice; Ashcroft’s law is so broadly stroked that people can be–and have been–detained because they were reading the wrong book, wearing the wrong t-shirt, or maintaining the wrong websites.

The good news is that the over-zealousness of the tappers is making a lot of people in Congress nervous, even Republicans. The wide latitude, a standard of proof that doesn’t amount to much more than ‘We think he might be connected in some way to a terrorist organization, or maybe somebody in his family is. One of his friends must be!’ is giving everybody the jitters. As well it should.

Junior has been stumping the country, playing up how important the PA is and playing down how poor its results have been. Ashcroft is twisting Congressional arms first to make PA I’s ‘sunset provisions’ permanent, and second to get PA II–which extends PA I’s invasions even further–passed as quickly as possible. The Publican leadership is Bush’s domestic puppet govt, but they’re facing a potential open revolt over both of Ashcroft’s goals. PA II has been languishing in committee for months, and moderate Republicans–a majority of them–have been back-pedaling and foot-dragging over the sunsets, voicing legitimate concerns about the damage to the Constitution and patent disbelief in the sunsets’ efficacy.

Encourage them if you get the chance. The sunsets should be allowed to die, and PA II should never see the light of day. Things are bad enough without adding them to brew.

In the "Give ‘Em An Inch And They’ll Take A Mile” Dept

To the surprise of PATRIOT Act defenders who have repeatedly said. “Never never NEVER!” (and the total lack of anything resembling astonishment or even mild eyebrow-raising from anyone else who’s given the subject 5 seconds worth of serious consideration), a recent Justice Dept report admits with no sense whatever of shame or embarassment that it has been brazenly using the PA to investigate ordinary criminals for months:

The Bush administration, which calls the USA Patriot Act perhaps its most essential tool in fighting terrorists, has begun using the law with increasing frequency in many criminal investigations that have little or no connection to terrorism.

The government is using its expanded authority under the far-reaching law to investigate suspected drug traffickers, white-collar criminals, blackmailers, child pornographers, money launderers, spies and even corrupt foreign leaders, federal officials said.

And they said it couldn’t happen here.