back to article Bush to Congress: streamline star-chamber spy court

President George Bush has urged Congress to approve modifications to American laws governing surveillance and wiretapping. In his Saturday speech to the nation, the President said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was out of date, and that it hampered US terror-busting spooks unduly. Under FISA, when feds or …

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Erm...

... see breakfast with Al-Queda

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What I don't get...

...is why the Bushies suddenly want to have this veneer of legal legitimacy. I mean, it's hardly as though NSA, GCHQ et al aren't collecting this intel anyway. It's not like they're really sat inside those super high tech bunkers playing scrabble and computing anagrams of their names all day, is it ?

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Anonymous Coward

He didn't put the spookd under FISA

He put ONE program under FISA. Gonzales keeps referring to some other program, that Bush hasn't admitted to.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/homefront/view/2.html?c=2qt

Gotta wonder what that other program is, that couldn't be put under FISA and presumably is the reason they need to 'modernize' FISA before leaving office.

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flush

That flushing sound is another right going down the toilet. Since "the terrorists" don't want us to have any rights, Bush is playing right into their hands. There are plenty of innocents who have been put on the "no fly" lists, with no explanation of why and only a limited chance of getting off. If that can happen to them, then why not list them as "terror suspects" and tap their calls?

I know a guy by the name of Timothy McVeigh. He says it took him 6 months to convince the feds that they guy they were really looking for was cold and moldy.

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Anonymous Coward

Misleading argument

"Under FISA, when feds or spies want to monitor communications in America they must obtain a secret warrant from the special star-chamber-esque FIS court."

Not true, even though the regime keeps making this argument. From http://edition.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/23/justice.nsa/index.html :

Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said the president could have gone back to a FISA court after the wiretaps if he was concerned about speed.

"I'm just stunned by the president's rationales with respect to the illegal wiretapping," Reed said. "There are two points that have to be emphasized with respect to the FISA procedure: They're secret, and they're retroactive."

So, if it's perfectly legal so long as you confess your sins to the FISA court afterwards, does that mean the administration was spying on political opponents as well as potential terrorists? Maybe, but I've read elsewhere that in this case, the NSA wasn't targeting anyone with their wiretaps. They were targeting EVERYONE, and scanning the chatter for interesting tidbits (something that wasn't possible when FISA was written). To retroactively go back and get warrants for tens of thousands of taps with no probable cause other than a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon style guilt by association, and that yielded 99 44/100% of crap, would not have been in the spirit of FISA. Instead:

"To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free,

when men are different from one another and do not live alone--

to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:

From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude,

from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink--

greetings!"

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Under the spreading chestnut tree

If poor old H.G.Wells was alive today, he would spend his time being interviewed and constantly denying that he had written a guide book for twenty first century government. He would also be shocked at just how far short of reality his book had fallen. We are being listened to and watched far more efficiently than H.G. could ever have imagined.

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Carnivore didn't work out...

Operation Carnivore:

http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/dltr/articles/2001dltr0028.html

Revealed to the public in 2000, this particularly nasty and indiscriminate piece of software was supposed to by the key element in finding crooks by sniffing their packets and dumping suspect communications (but not innocent ones!) into a database for the Feds to analyse. It seemed like it would have been perfect for post-9/11 domestic spying on Internet users, but the proof wasn't in the pudding.

It bombed after several years of crappy, bug-riddled performance.

As a result, our illustrious leaders decided to go back to the old "sniff 'em all and let God sort 'em out" method, which is where the warrantless wiretapping comes in. The only real problems are (a) they are sniffing everyone's dirty underwear and (b) they still can't figure out what constitutes a suspect communication. This leads to harrassment and privacy invasion issues.

Not to mention they've changed the actor who plays the role of God several times.

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Isn't this already legal in other countries?

The US law is a bit "hyper" about not spying on US citizens, no matter where they are. But in France and I think in other european countries any communication that crosses a national frontier can be intercepted without a warrant. Sorry I can't back this up with a URL...

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Isn't it wonderful ?

To see just how a robust democracy, stalwart defender of Human Rights, stands up to defend those values in a time of hardship ?

Yes, it would be nice to see that. Unfortunately, that is nowhere to be seen at the moment.

I viewed V for Vendetta just last night, and I was shocked at how relevant the film is to the current events.

Of course, it was made in 2005, but it is based on a comic book character (hey, another Marvel creation goes to the silver screen) that predates the film by decades.

Basically put, I feel that this film accurately portrays a possible future that I would prefer did not happen. But the way Bush and his cronies are going, it seems all too possible.

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HG Wells?

Or George Orwell?

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A good laugh

My Muslim Perspective

On first reading this I thought "what a shame. more personal freedoms eroded by hardliners". Then the irony hit me. Bush and Co are the US Ayatollahs. They really are no better than the Irani regime or perhaps the Nth Korea of Kim Jong-Il. They'll talk about freedom and democracy but its all a stage show.

I do hope that the next time you're (in the US) on the phone or emailing or IMing your friend Ali, that you realise *you* are probably on the government's "suspicious" list too. Serves you right. We always get the government we deserve. Here in Australia we have an opportunity soon to get rid of John Howard. I not only hope we do that but demand that the new lot get some distance from the US.

:-)

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Life imitating fiction?

Like Pascal mentioned above, there are plenty of unsettling trends these days that are depicted in movies and other works of art. V was a great film and from reading El Reg for years, I can see some of the same stark parallels forming today. From the ricin-terror-spoof to even the 1984-esq talking poles with cams, the UK seems to be step-in-step with the USA in condensing and reducing everyone’s freedom for the betterment of the people and our safety. (Yet another oxymoron like military intelligence brought to you only by government)

Thing to keep in mind is how closely are we getting to repeating history? How much of a difference is there between a democracy and a fascist state—anyone in particular reminding you of Adolf? Are our respective governments that are supposedly run by the people becoming too powerful and elitist for the people? How easy is it to run for office—any office? Do you need a warehouse of cash that only a corporate mogul or crime lord can obtain to be in government? What makes a corporate mogul successful—the ruthlessness or the efficiency in their decision making? Do we want them as president/PM? Would a crime lord do better or do you even see a difference between politicians and crime lords?

Just sowing a few seeds of discontent... anyone up for a revolution? >:)

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Anonymous Coward

Ethic of reciprocity (do unto oneself...)

to ciaran: I don't think you can do that in France at all, though Sarkozy would love it for sure.

Bush thinks sub-human foreigners basically have no right and are fair game. With the same mentality, I am sure he would also recognise that North Korea, Russia or Germany has every right to freely wiretap, and spy US citizens without warrants or other such niceties. And of course also kidnap them for "rendition" at a whim... A wonderful world awaits us...

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