Writer Pamela Hess over at the Associated Press has written a cute little article about the current Senate debate about the FISA Amendments Act. That article only refers to the radical expansion of spy powers for the White House in the following line, saying that the legislation, “Allows eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.”
Wow. That doesn’t sound so unreasonable, does it?
Well, consider the text of the FISA Amendments Act that the Associated Press article doesn’t actually include. The “emergencies” that the Associated Press refers to are not classic states of emergency. Rather, they are only based upon vague declarations by the Attorney General of the United States that some unnamed person in some unnamed place might come to some unspecified kind of harm if the spying doesn’t take place.
Folks, that’s not an emergency. That’s everyday life.
The other thing that the Associated Press doesn’t mention is that the Bush Administration claims that the USA has been in a constant state of emergency for almost the entire last seven years! That means that what the Associated Press characterizes as a small provision just for emergencies has been, and is likely to continue being, used as a normal, everyday tool of spying.
Besides all that, who gets to certify that the Attorney General has even followed these very loose and easy provisions for spying without any kind of search warrant or court approval? Why, it’s the Attorney General himself. Under the FISA Amendments Act, the watchdog guarding the hen house is no one other than the fox.
You know those “required papers” that are to be filed with the court? You might think that they include a full accounting of the espionage that has been conducted against American citizens here in the USA, but no. Those papers require nothing more than the Attorney General to say that spying has occurred. No details are required. No proof that the spying had anything to do with any criminal investigation is required. No justification is required, other than the Attorney General to assert, again without any evidence, that somebody somewhere might have been hurt if the spying wasn’t done.
Why hasn’t Pamela Hess bothered to include this information in her article? She doesn’t want you to worry your pretty little head about it, I guess.
Update: The article I referred to and linked to in this article has been edited by the people at Yahoo News. No, it’s not to include the information that I described. It’s to remove even those tiny little scraps.
The original article I read is still available at The Guardian.