Earlier today President George W. Bush signed H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act, into law. That makes today the date of enactment for the FISA Amendments Act and according to the text of the bill itself, the day of enactment is also the day the bill goes into effect as law.
That means that as of today, as of right now, a presidential administration can, without a warrant or even the prior approval of a FISA judge, engage in any physical search whatsoever so long as 1) 7 days later, the administration files a piece of paper not asking permission but just telling a judge it has done so. It can carry on with this search as long as 67 days. And then, as long as it 2) says — not proves, just says — that the information has to do with public safety, it can go ahead and engage in ANY physical search, ANYWHERE, WHENEVER it wants — then use the information as it sees fit, even if some judge says after those 67 days that the search was unjustified. Don’t believe me? Read the bill, playing special attention to pages 74-77 and sections of the bill that refer to “appeal.”
Yes, pages 74-77 refer to “physical searches,” right there in the header, not just the electronic surveillance the media focuses exclusively on. Oh, come on now, you say. You might think that when the new law refers to “physical searches” under FISA authority, it doesn’t actually mean “physical searches.” Maybe “physical searches” is the government’s new euphemism for trigger fish. Yeah, and maybe I’m a flying pig. The federal government has asserted the right to search through homes, offices, cars and other property under the authority of FISA for over a decade now. In one of the few cases that became unclassified, we know the federal government used FISA to search the home of Aldrich Ames. So yes, “physical searches” mean just that — physical searches. The government has the new right to engage in a physical search of anyone, anywhere, for 67-day-long periods.
Here’s your fallback position: see, it can’t possibly really be authorized for anyone, anywhere, right? Not on American soil, and not for U.S. citizens, right? Wrong. All a presidential administration has to do is assert — not prove, just assert — that you, you American citizen living in Ottumwa, Iowa, are possibly an agent of a foreign power (which these days can include a U.S. citizen living in America), and BINGO!, because the government asserts you are, it can go ahead and riffle through your stuff for 67 long days, all without a warrant, without any justification to anyone.
Anyone, citizens too. Anywhere, in the U.S. too. Anything you live in, or work in, or own, or use. Thanks to those who passed the FISA Amendments Act this week, and thanks to President Bush who signed the bill into law today, all this can be physically searched by the government for up to 67 days without any justification whatsoever. And no matter whether the claims used to start the searches are bogus or not, a presidential administration can keep whatever information it finds at its sole discretion.
It happened. It’s done. This is the law.