27 December 2005

Ending Bush Wiretap Abuse

My father, my brother and I were discussing the day before yesterday, what it would take to stop Bush's illegal wiretapping operations. My father was thinking about a lawsuit seeking an injunction. My brother (a computer professional and member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and I, were concerned about getting standing to bring the suit. Who would the Plaintiff be? Could you bring suit simply for being swept up in the NSA net if none of your conversations actually had keywords that made them come up as search results? What if your conversation did come up as a search result, was scanned by an low level NSA official without being disclosed and was immediately discarded? Did someone have to take action based on the information? If they didn't, how would you know that you had been wiretapped? Could you bring suits based on the chilling effect that you might be searched? Also, suppose you got an injunction, how would you enforce it? How would you know that someone in a multi-billion dollar agency breached it?

I argued that the way to go was through Congress. Put budget limitations on the NSA budget and impeach the lowest level official at the NSA you could find with responsibility over the matter based on President Bush's public comments and the claim that he had followed an unlawful order. (Impeach Bush and politcal loyalties come into play, and it become a referrendum on Bush generally, rather than a particular violation of the law his administration has committed).

Well, lapin at Daily Kos has provided us with a diary, that in turn relies on a report from Wayne Masden in April of 2004, that makes both a court approach and a Congressional approach easier. He reports that:

Intelligence community insiders claim that a number of State Department and other government officials may have been subject to NSA "training" surveillance and that transcripts between them and foreign officials likely ended up in the possession of Bolton and his neoconservative political allies, including such members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff as David Wurmser (a former assistant to Bolton at State), John Hannah, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Possible affected individuals include: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and their conversations with their counterparts and officials around the world; Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns and his telephone conversations with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohammed el Baradei and Britain's top non-proliferation official William Ehrman (Bolton was frozen out of negotiations between Burns, Britain, and Libya over the stand-down of the Libyan weapons of mass destruction program) (also Burns's conversations with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Shara over charges by Bolton that Syria possessed WMD, and conversations between Burns and former chief UN Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix); various phone calls made by Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Brent Scowcroft; U.S. Special Envoy on North Korea Charles "Jack" Pritchard and his telephone conversations with U.S. ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, and Richard Armitage; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his telephone conversations with Secretary of State Powell and North Korea's deputy UN ambassador Han Song Ryol; phone conversations between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and his Iranian counterpart, Majlis foreign affairs chair Mohsen Mirdamad, and between Biden, his staff, and William Burns and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman; and President Jimmy Carter's phone conversations with Cuban officials before and during his May 2002 trip to Cuba (Carter said he found no evidence to support Bolton's claims of Cuban biological weapons development).

This is, of course, not O.K.

United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18, the NSA's "Bible" for the conducting of surveillance against U.S. persons, allows "U.S. material," i.e., listening to U.S. persons, to be used for training missions. However, USSID 18 also requires that all intercepts conducted for such training missions are to be completely destroyed after completion of the training operation.

This story sounds a lot more plausible now that Bush has admitted that he intentionally went beyond the limits imposed by FISA to use the NSA in ways that impacted domestic targets.

Spying domestically for political purposes and destroying electronic records (tapes) is what got Nixon to resign and Watergate was one important part of the puzzle that got FISA enacted.

Let's start with impeaching Bolton (whose recess appointment expires about a year and a week from now, Congress did not assent to his appointment as ambassador to the U.N.), and zeroing out the NSA budget until we get explanations. The rest will follow in due course.

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