Patterico's Pontifications

9/20/2007

Does it Help our Enemies and Hurt Americans when Congress Debates Surveillance Programs?

Filed under: Politics,Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 11:50 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell says it does and will:

A debate in Congress over eavesdropping on terrorism suspects will cost American lives by exposing intelligence techniques, the Bush administration’s spy chief said on Thursday. At a congressional hearing, National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell faced sharp questioning from Democratic lawmakers who deeply mistrust surveillance programs which the administration put in place after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

He said debate over the programs was important to ensure authorities had proper tools to fight suspected terrorists, but that the open discussion would also help U.S. enemies. “What this dialogue and debate has allowed those who wish us harm to do, is to understand significantly more about how we were targeting their communications,” McConnell told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

Asked if debates had cost U.S lives, he said, “They will.”

“And the reason is: The intelligence business is conducted in secret. It’s conducted in secret for a reason.

Debate is important in our society but I would feel better if members of Congress debated to make the process work better. Instead, it seems like many debate to make themselves look more important.

— DRJ

44 Responses to “Does it Help our Enemies and Hurt Americans when Congress Debates Surveillance Programs?”

  1. I watched the old Day of the Jackal movie last night. The cop revealed to the cabinet that he discovered a leak from the cabinet that tipped off the Jackal. The minister, who had told his (spy) girlfriend, left the room, knowing he was caught, and then shot himself. “How did you know who to bug?” someone asked. “I didn’t,” said the cop, “I bugged everybody here.”

    That’s the way to do it. And we won’t see Hwood making a movie like that soon!

    Patricia (4117a9)

  2. Or maybe Congress is protecting American’s Fourth Amendment rights?

    alphie (99bc18)

  3. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,297402,00.html
    But suspicion about their being bugged has been compounded by the fact that Portuguese law permits eavesdropping on telephones and computers with court approval, even if that request is granted retroactively.

    Information gleaned from such activity is also admissible in court. The PolÍcia Judiciária, which sought out the judge’s permission to conduct more interviews, has submitted to the court a retroactive application to bug the McCanns, The Times said.

    A source close to the couple said the McCanns, even though they have nothing to hide, are very concerned that they and friends of theirs who vacationed with them at the time of the disappearance are all being bugged.

    Hazy (c36902)

  4. Or maybe the Democrat Congress is helping the terrorists?

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  5. Fourth amendment concerns can be raised in closed session. But grandstanding politicians who put their own partisan interests over the interests of the nation – well, that can only happen in open circus … err, I meant hearings.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  6. “…it seems like many debate to make themselves look more important.”

    DRJ: Isn’t the word “more”, superfluous?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  7. If the right now sees defending the Constitution as a publicity stunt, perhaps some soul-serching is in order, eh?

    alphie (99bc18)

  8. If the left now sees defending American lives as violating the Constitution, perhaps some soul-searching is in order, eh?

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  9. Exposing secret intelligence means is not defending the Constitution, only cheap blowhards pretend that it is.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  10. Intelligence has to be secret to be effective. There’s always the danger that the line between what is justifiably necessary to protect the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the body of citizens as a whole and the individual citizen will be crossed. This is why there are intelligence oversight committees in both the house and the senate.

    The danger that Mr McConnell and others have been pointing out the last few years is that the information given to these two committees is supposed to being given to vetted individuals with a need to know. They have explicitly accepted the responsibility to judge when that line is being or in danger of being crossed on behalf of every citizen collectively along with consideration of the rights of the individual. Taking the information into a public forum not only hobbles intelligence gathering and threatens lives but also perverts the rationale for having vetted people on these committees or having the committees at all.

    I guess I’m basically saying that alphie and others who infer that they are protecting anyone’s rights by insisting the information be open forum are doing anything but. Taking the information public for political reasons is incredibly irresponsible.

    Just Passing Through (cb6c8d)

  11. I think the left sees itself as saving the right from its overwhelming desire to submit to authority.

    If the clowns who are blowing $3 billion a week on the Iraq fiasco can’t find the money to hire a few more law clerks to submit FISA subpoenas, let’s just shut that pork fest down.

    alphie (99bc18)

  12. Neither one of those statements makes any sense inside or outside of the thread’s context alphie.

    Just Passing Through (cb6c8d)

  13. I see that Robin has made the salient point with admirable brevity in comment #8 and leave it at that.

    Just Passing Through (cb6c8d)

  14. Another Drew #5:

    “…it seems like many debate to make themselves look more important.”

    Isn’t the word “more”, superfluous?

    Point taken … and with humor, too. Well done.

    DRJ (ec59b5)

  15. “The cop revealed to the cabinet that he discovered a leak from the cabinet that tipped off the Jackal. The minister, who had told his (spy) girlfriend, left the room, knowing he was caught, and then shot himself. “How did you know who to bug?” someone asked. “I didn’t,” said the cop, “I bugged everybody here.””

    Looks like the cop could have achieved his aim without bugging anyone.

    amarc (10527e)

  16. All the rights in the world mean nothing when you are dead as the result of a terrorist attack.

    Retired vice cop (30571a)

  17. “If the left now sees defending American lives as violating the Constitution, perhaps some soul-searching is in order, eh?”

    – Perfect Sense

    Riiiight… and the only way to protect Americans from terrorists is by tapping phones (ours or theirs, it makes no difference).

    Personally, I’d rather risk dying in a terrorist attack than watch the President piss on the Constitution (whatever his intentions may be).

    Insofar as the gist of this entire post goes, well… I wonder if the Terrorists watch C-Span.

    Leviticus (e5dabe)

  18. Leviticus writes: “Riiiight… and the only way to protect Americans from terrorists is by tapping phones (ours or theirs, it makes no difference).

    Personally, I’d rather risk dying in a terrorist attack than watch the President piss on the Constitution (whatever his intentions may be).”

    This is really very silly. First of all, important terrorist operations have been stopped by telephone surveillance such as the recent arrests in Germany. Secondly, phone surveillance is not “piss[ing] on the Constitution”. This is really silly – why should phone surveillance itself of terrorist suspects ever be considered unconstitutional? If you think that the Constitution prohibits phone surveillance, you don’t really understand the Constitution. A telephone conversation really is outside of the Fourth Amendment and laws on domestic wiretapping are actually statutory in origin rather than Constitutional in a strict sense.

    But beyond that, no sane person believes that telephone surveillance should just be prohibited in counter-terrorism.

    I’ve gotten really tired of silly comments that assume that both the Bush administration and the NSA are just constantly monitoring the phone calls of 300 million Americans willy-nilly but for the actions of John Conyers. It shows an ignorance of the professionalism of the NSA frankly.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  19. Leviticus — I highly doubt you’d die, or sacrifice your family to preserve the civil rights of terrorists abroad.

    What is the danger? That politics catering to Moveon will mean that people die. Lots of them. And we get that vigilante moment. One we can’t move back from, ever.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  20. What is the danger in having a judge approve all wiretaps, Jim?

    What possible motive could the NSA have to escape the Constitutional requirements for government searches?

    alphie (99bc18)

  21. Alphie, terrorist surveillance does not follow the model of criminal surveillance. With modern technology, surveillance has to follow handoffs in phones and targets with a rapidity not needed in criminal surveillance. In criminal surveillance, the purpose of the surveillance is to gather evidence, not stop operations in a timely manner. These matters alone require a program whose response time is shorter than the cycle time of a court issues warrant.

    FISA itself was designed in an era with fixed telephone circuits and designed to aid in operations against static, foreign intelligence networks run by bored KGB agents.

    Its an obsolete model and everyone knows it, which is why there was little controversy about the NSA’s programs while the Democrats were still interested in the nation’s interest. That’s what got Jane Harmon on the select intel committee in trouble with the Democratic leadership – the fact that she still understood where the national interest lay.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  22. Oh, and by the way, Alphie, there is no constitutional requirement for warrants for telephone surveillance of conversations that cross our national border. This is another issue where the FISA statute overreaches because of bad definitions of surveillance.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  23. It’s a nice story, Robin.

    But FISA allows the NSA to file for a warrant after the wiretap has taken place.

    As for “little controversy.” this story has generated nothing but controversy since the NYT first revealed a dozen NSA workers had told them the government was violating the Constitution.

    alphie (99bc18)

  24. Alphie, you keep making false claims about the Constitution.

    We know its deliberate on your part.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  25. Here’s what my copy of the Constitution says how the Fourth Amendment reads, Robin:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    What does yours say?

    alphie (99bc18)

  26. Guess what, Alphie, phone calls are not mentioned. Restrictions upon phone surveillance are creations of statute, Alphie, not the Constitution.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  27. It’s not just phone calls the NSA & FBI are snooping through, Robin.

    But, I think you’ll find that the statutes derive from the Constitution.

    Can’t have government troops kicking in doors looking for wrongdoing, can we?

    At least not here in America…it’s okay in our colonies.

    alphie (99bc18)

  28. Once again, Alphie, you expose yourself as a bile-filled troll who will post any silly thing and abandon it just as quickly.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  29. I think it is you who are the troll, Robin.

    You can’t come up with a single reason why the NSA should be able to monitor Americans without supervision, can you?

    Other than the laughable excuse that the $700+ billion a year “defense” apparatus can’t afford to pay for a few more legal staffers.

    alphie (99bc18)

  30. Alphie, trolls like you create strawmen like “why the NSA should be able to monitor Americans without supervision.” No one is claiming that in fact, it is another of your lies. I gave several reasons why a judicial warrant requirement was unreasonable. Not to mention not constitutionally required. You answered with more misrepresentations and then shifted off to your strawmen. That is the action of a dishonest troll, alphie, something that has gotten you tossed off of scores of forums.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  31. Haha, Robin,

    Let’s both admit up from that this whole thing is one big straw man.

    Any terrorists smart enough to get their hands on, say, a nuclear weapon are certainly smart enough to avoid giving anything away to the NSA or the FBI via phone calls or e-mail.

    And the only thing we need to meet the “judicial warrant requirement” for government searches is more judges…a small price to pay to ensure our freedom.

    alphie (99bc18)

  32. I understood that much of the successful terrorist surveillance involves discovery of low-level functionaries in minor roles and then tracing the connections back from that.

    DRJ (ec59b5)

  33. You can’t come up with a single reason why the NSA should be able to monitor Americans without supervision, can you?

    No reason to.

    Read the post. The issue at hand is not the lack of oversight or supervision. It was explained to you that there is supervision and oversight by the house and senate intelligence committees. The issue is open forum discussion of intelligence gathering methodology. You are ignoring that in favor of creating a false constitutional issue.

    Your rights are being protected. It is the rights of the population at large that are jeopardized by grandstanding politicians. Ergo, as Robin Roberts said it well enough:

    Exposing secret intelligence means is not defending the Constitution, only cheap blowhards pretend that it is.

    That covers the grandstanding politicians, yourself, and Leviticus.

    Just Passing Through (cb6c8d)

  34. “Restrictions upon phone surveillance are creations of statute, Alphie, not the Constitution.”

    Read:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katz_v._United_States

    amarc (10527e)

  35. I’m curious, are there any documented cases of the government misusing these wiretaps to bring criminal cases against American citizens?

    Like I said before, when you die in a terrorist attack, you have no civil rights.

    What ever happened to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness? It seems like that is what out government is trying to preserve and the leftists are trying to prevent.

    Retired vice cop (30571a)

  36. “Restrictions upon phone surveillance are creations of statute, Alphie, not the Constitution.”

    Read:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katz_v._United_States

    Does not apply. I wish you confused people would attempt to grasp that this is about national security and not criminal investigation. The distinction has been recognized for umpteen years and oversight is in place. No one with any brains is suggesting that this is a constitutional issue. The issue at hand is that the methodology is being made public for political reasons. The intent of this is that ignorant people will immediately caterwaul that their rights are being abridged and so further the manipulators’ agenda.

    Just Passing Through (8a0896)

  37. JPT,

    Of course this is a Constitutional matter.

    Accusing a politician of doing something “just for politics” isn’t a rational arguement.

    It’s more of a religious affirmation.

    alphie (99bc18)

  38. Read the post. It is not a constitutional matter. It’s about compromising intelligence methods, scope, and practices by vetted lawmakers. It has nothing to do with constitutional rights being protected. Oversight concerning intelligence methods, scope, and practices by vetted lawmakers is the function of the house and senate intelligence committees. The Constitution is covered. I’ll point you to my comment#35. No one with any brains is suggesting that this is a constitutional issue.

    You are either very mis-informed about the mandate and function of the intelligence committees or Robin Roberts’ is correct in saying you’re just an ignorant blow hard.

    Accusing a politician of doing something “just for politics” isn’t a rational arguement.

    That is a naive statement.

    It’s more of a religious affirmation.

    That is an asinine statement.

    Just Passing Through (cb6c8d)

  39. What is more unconstitutional, listening to the calls of suspected terrorists or innocent Americans being murdered?

    Retired vice cop (2a4d4b)

  40. Moron Alphie said:

    Of course this is a Constitutional matter.

    Translation: “I have no clue what I’m talking about but I so want to say something.”

    Accusing a politician of doing something “just for politics” isn’t a rational arguement.

    Translation: “I live in my mother’s basement and have no life”.

    It’s more of a religious affirmation.

    Translation: “I’m a complete and utter idiot who just wants to fuck up this thread.”

    nk (2f5778)

  41. “I’m a complete and utter idiot who just wants to fuck up this thread.”

    Comment by nk

    Yep

    voiceofreason (244006)

  42. VOR #41,

    I don’t know whether you aimed that comment at me or approved my putting down Alphie. Frankly, I prefer the former — I would hate having you agree with me on anything. In either case, stop stalking me.

    nk (2f5778)

  43. “What is more unconstitutional, listening to the calls of suspected terrorists or innocent Americans being murdered?”

    OMG The govt is murdering innocent americans! EVERYBODY PANIC LIKE ITS BOSTON LOGAN AT RADIO SHACK!

    amarc (10527e)

  44. Well, if we abandon the Constitution after one terrorist attack, then I’d say the eavesdropping is the worse problem. It’s funny how in this debate, the advocates of a police state are construed as “patriots” and the advocates of the rule of law are cowards.

    What was the correct course for Germany after the terrorist burning of the Reichstag?

    As for the Constitutionality of the program, there’s reason to believe that intra-US calls are monitored, and that needs a warrant.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (501712)


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