Remember last year when we were working so hard against the FISAAA? Remember how the progressive blogosphere and a too small minority of Democrats in Congress argued that this legislation gave away far too many critical civil liberty protections?
Well, guess what:
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.
Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in "overcollection" of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional....
The Justice Department, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, acknowledged Wednesday night that there had been problems with the N.S.A. surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved.
Yeah, right. Unintentional. All the problems resolved. And I've got a bridge to sell you.
The intelligence officials said the problems had grown out of changes enacted by Congress last July in the law that regulates the government’s wiretapping powers, and the challenges posed by enacting a new framework for collecting intelligence on terrorism and spying suspects.
While the N.S.A.’s operations in recent months have come under examination, new details are also emerging about earlier domestic-surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip, current and former intelligence officials said....
Notified of the problems by the N.S.A., officials with both the House and Senate intelligence committees said they had concerns that the agency had ignored civil liberties safeguards built into last year’s wiretapping law. "We have received notice of a serious issue involving the N.S.A., and we’ve begun inquiries into it," a Congressional staff member said.
Separate from the new inquiries, the Justice Department has for more than two years been investigating aspects of the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program.
As part of that investigation, a senior F.B.I. agent recently came forward with what the inspector general’s office described as accusations of "significant misconduct" in the surveillance program, people with knowledge of the investigation said. Those accusations are said to involve whether the N.S.A. made Americans targets in eavesdropping operations based on insufficient evidence tying them to terrorism.
And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said....
The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.
Spencer traces down the 27 possible members who could have been the target of the NSA.
As both Digby and Glenn point out, it's hard to be too surprised by this. But a lot of us are getting awfully sick of playing the "I told you so" game. But, hey, at least these revelations mean that the Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate the NSA on warrantless wiretapping, something that they didn't manage to accomplish previously.
The program needs to be shut down. That's what President Obama can do. And the FISAAA legislation that he and so many other Democrats capitulated on last year, telling us not to worry, that they were looking out for our best interests, that needs to go, too.
Update: Much more background in Magnifico's diary.
Update II: Greg reminds us of when we were all called loony nutjobs by Republicans for imagining that this was precisely what was happening.
"It’s disappointing that as Americans across the country celebrate our Independence Day, some in the Senate are willing to gamble with their security in order to protect foreign terrorists in foreign countries.”
“Painting this type of picture only feeds the delusions of those who wear tin foil hats around their house and think that 9/11 was an inside job.”