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Please begin with an informative title:

Gee, they just can't seem to get this stuff right:

A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.

F.B.I. officials blamed an “apparent miscommunication” with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host. The records were ultimately destroyed, officials said.

Isn't that just so wacky? Gosh, George W. Bush's "administration" just seems to keep "mistakenly" overreaching on electronic spying, National Security Letters, the no-fly list... it's all just sooooo unexpected!

The good news here is that, as the article notes, the e-mails mistakenly vacuumed up by the FBI were destroyed -- a procedure known as "minimization."

Hmm. Minimization. That rings a bell. What was it?

Oh yeah! The FISA fight in the Senate! Minimization was a concern because the Senate bill pretty much gave the government a free hand to suck up every phone call, e-mail, text message, etc. there is, and -- amazingly enough -- had to be amended on the floor in order to even approach a proper handling of minimization concerns. Curiously, it happened that there was no provision in the new law that said what actually happens if the government, oh, let's say... doesn't destroy "accidentally" captured communications. Senator Whitehouse had to try to shoehorn that in as an amendment, and along the way had to agree to soften his language from explicitly authorizing compliance reviews by the FISA court, down to some mumblings about how nothing in the bill should be construed to reduce or contravene the FISA court's inherent authority to enforce its orders regarding minimization (if any).

Subtle difference, I suppose. The affirmative power to conduct reviews, versus a grudging acknowledgment that a court should be able to enforce its own orders. But not that subtle. After all, how does any court actually enforce its orders? By reliance on the muscle of the ("unitary") executive, of course.

Oops! Dang.

Oh well. What are the odds of another "mistake," anyway?

[A]n intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because surveillance operations are classified, said: “It’s inevitable that these things will happen. It’s not weekly, but it’s common.”

Wonder how the new, softer "minimization" language -- combined with an "administration" that gives less of a shit about the law and its consequences as the clock winds ever closer to its end -- will stand up to the government's record of... well, abject failure to act with any reasonable restraint at all.


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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 04:58 PM PST.

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