Skip to main content

Back in February 2006, Texas Senator John Cornyn led Congressional Republicans with his famous defense of President Bush's regime of illicit NSA domestic surveillance, "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."  Now, as the New York Times revealed today, one of those illegal targeted was apparently one of Cornyn's Capitol Hill colleagues.  And as it turns out, this is the second time in six months the National Security Agency's lawless fishing expeditions have come to light.

As the Times documented, the NSA's sweeping interception of Americans' private phone calls and emails "went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year."  Despite the loose requirement that targets of the warrantless eavesdropping had to be "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States, the NSA still needed court approval to monitor purely domestic communications.  But in recent months, "operational and legal" problems led the agency to engage in "overcollection" of data from innocent Americans:

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...

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.

These revelations follow on the heels of an expose by ABC News last October which documented NSA personnel monitoring the private phone calls of Americans abroad.

Despite President Bush's repeated assurances that "I'm mindful of your civil liberties," two NSA operators admitted "hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home." According to two NSA staffers featured by ABC, the so-called "terrorist surveillance program" was used to listen in on the calls of American soldiers and aid workers overseas:

[Former Navy Arab linguist David Murfee] Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer...

"We knew they were working for these aid organizations," [former Army Reserves Arab linguist Adrienne] Kinne told ABC News. "They were identified in our systems as 'belongs to the International Red Cross' and all these other organizations. And yet, instead of blocking these phone numbers we continued to collect on them," she told ABC News.

For its part, the Obama Justice Department has taken steps to remedy the most recent abuses.  According to a DOJ statement, the department "detected issues that raised concerns" and then "took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance" with the law and court orders.  Attorney General Holder also sought approval from the FISA national security court to "to seek a renewal of the surveillance program only after new safeguards were put in place."

But as Glenn Greenwald highlighted today, Congress' 2007 codification of President Bushs' unconstitutional surveillance program continues to present predictable challenges for President Obama.  Even as the Obama administration confronts massive abuse of the FISA process, its lawyers to the dismay of the President's supporters continue to advance the same broad state secrets arguments used by the Bush DOJ to claim government immunity from prosecution.  Meanwhile, Republican leaders and their right-wing echo chamber continue to demand the prosecution of NSA whistle-blower Thomas Tamm and the New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau who first broke the story in December 2005.  (Risen and Lichtblau also reported today's revelations in the Times.)

Meanwhile, Republican Senators Cornyn, Sessions and Roberts maintain "you really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."  Apparently in the America George W. Bush produced, not if you're living either.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 10:01 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site