Tuesday :: May 16, 2006

Bush Still Insists NSA Wiretapping Legal; Specter Caves Once Again

by Steve

Bush restated his contention today that his administration doesn’t eavesdrop on the phone calls of everyday Americans without a warrant, but sidestepped a question about whether or not the NSA is data mining the phone records of those everyday Americans without a warrant, and without any probable cause shown that those Americans have any connection to terrorists. Which means that the NSA story by the USA Today last week is true, and this Administration feels that data mining is legal without probable cause.

"We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval," Bush said in an East Room news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
"What I've told the American people is we'll protect them against an al-Qaida attack. And we'll do that within the law," Bush said.
"This government will continue to guard the privacy of the American people. But if al-Qaida is calling into the United States, we want to know, and we want to know why," the president added.
However, Bush did not respond directly when asked whether it was a violation of privacy for the NSA to seek phone records from telephone companies.

Along these lines this morning, BellSouth denied that it had allowed the NSA access to its phone records, which means the NSA obtained the records without telling BellSouth, the USAT report is wrong, or BellSouth officials are bald-faced liars.

BellSouth says it has no evidence it was contacted by a U.S. spy agency or gave the government access to any of its customers' phone call records, disputing a published report that sparked a national debate on federal surveillance tactics.
The regional Bell, which offers telecommunication services in nine Southeastern states, said Monday it had conducted a "thorough review" and established that it had not given the National Security Agency customer call records.
"Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA," the company said in a statement.
BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said in a telephone interview, "we cannot find anyone within BellSouth who has ever been approached by the NSA."

Of course, there is a reason for these companies to say this: they are getting sued right and left, and now face the prospect of a Federal Communications Commission inquiry over whether or not the companies broke the law in turning the records over to the NSA.

And on a related note, Arlen Specter caved once again. After complaining for several weeks that Congress has allowed the Administration to bitch-slap it over intelligence gathering activities and oversight, Specter got bitch-slapped yesterday and caved to the far right brownshirts in the Senate GOP caucus when he agreed to delete from his NSA oversight bill the requirement that the program undergo a FISA court review. Instead, Specter has agreed to a proposal that the program will not undergo a review unless a plaintiff with legal standing petitions for such a review. This confirms that the Bush Administration knows this program is illegal, doesn’t want any review of it between now and November 2006, and wants to simply play out the clock.

Steve :: 9:37 AM :: Comments (25) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!