Why Do We Need FISA To Listen To Non-Americans?

by William Teach | February 17, 2008 1:00 pm

Why do we really need FISA to allow U.S. intelligence agencies to surveille electronic messages, such as email and phone calls, between people who are not citizens of the United States, and, as such, are not covered by the Constitution? Even if they are in the United States. Seems kinda silly, doesn’t it? We used to be able to do it at will. Sure, we need FISA to protect Americans, but, if Mohammed Sallami Sallami wants to talk to a financier in Europe, why do we need a law to allow our agencies to listen in? We already have one. The Constitution.

Ah, but there is the rub of the matter. As Andrew C. McCarthy points out

The whole reason Congress enacted the PAA in the first place is because FISA was never meant to apply to foreigners outside the U.S. communicating with other foreigners outside the U.S. We are not supposed to need court authorization for that. We are not supposed to have to write affidavits, approved by the attorney general and others, demonstrating probable cause that such people are agents of foreign powers — as well as demonstrating that other alternative investigative techniques would not yield the same intelligence.

Those are protections afforded by the FISA statute. Foreigners outside the U.S. are supposed to be outside the protection of the FISA statute, just as they are outside the protection of the Constitution. Saying the government can go to the FISA court is no answer: Government is not supposed to have to go to the FISA court. These people are not supposed to have FISA rights. They are not supposed to have Fourth Amendment rights.

We are talking about thousands upon thousands of communications, totally outside the U.S. (in the sense that no person inside our country is a participant) which the intelligence community used to be able to intercept and sift through without any burdensome judicial procedures whatsoever. That is how FISA was written, and that is how FISA was understood for almost 30 years. Then last year, a secret FISA-court ruling attempted to bring all those communications under FISA-court control — apparently on the theory that, because some digital bits of these conversations may zoom through U.S. hubs in global telecommunications networks, somehow a conversation between a guy in Pakistan and a guy in Afghanistan should now be considered a U.S. wire communication.

So, apparently, because of an activist ruling, we do need the provisions that Nancy Pelosi blew off to attend her daughters wedding. Oh, and the contempt charges against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton. As well as other important issues, such as congratulations and “good job!” type legislation (one of them was congratulating my NY Giants. Last thing I need is a bunch of soccer lovers doing this while blowing off national security). Love to give specifics, but Thomas is off-line for maintenance till 2pm.

And, of course, the American Left is allowing their abject and irrational seething personal Hatred of George W. Bush to color their opinions. They feelthat it is more important to take the side of the trial lawyers and Islamic Jihadists over protecting the United States, partially because of the provision of telecom immunity. As Mark Noonan points out, Big Lawyer has “given more than Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Insurance and Big Pharmacy, combined” since 1990. Guess which Party the majority of the $866 million went to.

Remember what happened to Dow Corning? They were sued non-stop after some non-scientific feelings perpetuated by Connie Chung about a few women’s breast implants, to the tune of $7 billion. Actual science showed that the implants were, in fact, safe. $7,000,000,000. They went in to bankruptcy, and almost out of business. Those on the left say “hey, if they did nothing wrong, then companies like AT&T and Verizon shouldn’t have any worries.” $7,000,000,000.

If they did nothing wrong, then why not shield them from frivolous lawsuits? Of course, it would be amusing to see John Edwards do his psychic channeling again. Except for the obvious outcomes. Just ask North Carolina baby doctors how they feel about Edwards.

I’m not even going to get into the damage that the suits could do to all aspects of wireline and wireless service were this to happen.

A final question: have those on the Left who complain about what the telecoms have done switched their carriers yet?

Crossposted at Pirate’s Cove[1].

  1. Pirate’s Cove: http://www.thepiratescove.us/?p=5202

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