Saturday, December 24, 2005

Is the Bush Administration Engaging in Large Scale Fishing Expedition?

The debate over Bush's domestic spying program has sparked this interesting question. Is the Bush Administration fishing for information that they could not possibly get a warrant for? The evidence seems to be pointing in that direction as Josh Marshall recently noted, in 2003 the FISA Court issued its first denied warrant in its history and denied 4 during that year. The next year, in 2004 there were 0 denied requests again, just like every year previously. So once the Bush Administration started getting their requests denied they began the secret spying program without FISA approval because they knew that they couldn't obtain a warrant for those searches. That tells me that they started coming to the extremely deferencial FISA Court with requests that would never be taken seriously by any Court. Requests for warrants on people who they had no probable cause whatsoever to believe were involved with anything. In other words, a fishing expedition, they are intercepting such a huge volume of communications that they couldn't possibly hope to obtain a warrant.
Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the court requires to approve a warrant. Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the White House had tried but failed to find a way.

One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."

The NSA program, and the technology on which it is based, makes it impossible to meet that criterion because the program is designed to intercept selected conversations in real time from among an enormous number relayed at any moment through satellites.

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