Feh. Must Be Domestic.

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The other day, Julian wondered how the NSA can be sure that the calls and e-mail messages it intercepts under President Bush's order allowing warrantless wiretaps are in fact "international," as his order requires. Turns out it can't:

At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message….In at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country….With roaming cellphones, internationally routed e-mail, and voice-over Internet technology, "it's often tough to find out where a call started and ended," said Robert Morris, a former senior scientist at the N.S.A. who is retired. "The N.S.A. is good at it, but it's difficult even for them. Where a call actually came from is often a mystery."

The accidental intercepts of purely domestic communications are thought to be a tiny fraction of the total. But this complication again raises the question of why the NSA is even trying to avoid domestic calls and messages, given President Bush's broad view of his own powers in fighting terrorism.

NEXT: Four Who Dared (GOP Senators Edition)

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  1. Why does the “Can You Hear Me Now?” Guy hate America?

  2. BTW, on a related note, Daniel Pipes has another sickening piece on wonderful transformative power of 9/11 and America’s subsequent fall from grace (in his not so humble opinion): http://www.danielpipes.org/article/3218

  3. I’ve never liked this idea that Americans have certain rights under the Constitution, but the US Government is free to treat non-Americans as though they have no similar rights. It seems to me that rights like those in the Bill of Rights are universal to humans, not just to Americans. The US Government certainly can’t enforce the respect of those rights worldwide, but at least it should not be the entity trampling them.

    In the context of this broad war on terrorism, seems to me that the US Government should treat foreign suspects the same way they should treat US Citizen suspects. That is, treat *everyone* as though they have Constitutional rights.

    Ummm… is this a terrible idea?

  4. Is the answer to Sullum’s question that perhaps those doing the montioring are policing themselves within the spirit of the non-domestic surveillance regulations?

    Of course, I’ll immediately accept the coming rejoinder as valid, i.e., they should be listening to nothing without FISA court review.

    It’s at least partially comforting that an effort to conform to the spirit of the law is being made.

  5. The thing is, everyone (except for Barbara Lee), indicated support for that broad bill after 9/11. I haven’t read the bill, but it’s possible that a case could be made with that, and with the “USA Patriot Act” and other legislation that was rushed through in such a short amount of time, that President Bush actually does have the power to do what he’s been doing.

    This is what happens when you don’t look before you leap.

  6. Does anyone really think the ‘law’ matters here? Are we really to assume that the NSA needs permission of the legislature in order to spy on its own citizens if it feels it needs to? Might goes further than right…

  7. ….Geeeez, does anybody understand what the 4th Amendment says, or why it’s in the Constitution at all ?

    The FISA ‘law’ and FISA ‘court’ are, of course, non-Constitutional (… illegal).

    The Constitution does not authorize ‘secret’ Federal courts, nor does the 4th Amendment permit legal search-warrants to be issued ‘after-the-search’, as FISA states.

    TSA warrantless-searches of airline passengers everyday in America are even more egregious than
    the illegal NSA warrantless-searches of domestic communications — but most everybody thinks TSA searches are OK to ensure our collective ‘security’.
    Bush thinks NSA searches are OK for our collective security — ignore the 4th & Constitution… and all kinds of things become OK.

    It’s a little late for Congressional Democrats to suddenly become indigant about Federal violations of the 4th Amendment….

  8. I’ve never liked this idea that Americans have certain rights under the Constitution, but the US Government is free to treat non-Americans as though they have no similar rights. It seems to me that rights like those in the Bill of Rights are universal to humans, not just to Americans. The US Government certainly can’t enforce the respect of those rights worldwide, but at least it should not be the entity trampling them

    By that logic, shouldn’t the military need probable cause to conduct any kind of intelligence and shouldn’t the CIA need probable cause to run intelligence activities? Indeed, spying on other governments is not investigating a crime at all, so I don’t see how you could ever get a warrent. Afterall, by your logic, doesn’t Kim Jong Il have a right to conduct his business in private just like you and I do?

  9. “By that logic, shouldn’t the military need probable cause to conduct any kind of intelligence and shouldn’t the CIA need probable cause to run intelligence activities? Indeed, spying on other governments is not investigating a crime at all, so I don’t see how you could ever get a warrent. Afterall, by your logic, doesn’t Kim Jong Il have a right to conduct his business in private just like you and I do?”

    Yes, if you believe that the Constitution has independent meaning. Clearly, if there was one area of nearly universal consensus in the founding generation, it was a desire to avoid entanglement in European power politics. So there was a reason why the Constitution didn’t provide for these things.

    If you don’t like it, amend it. Or, join hands with the liberal “living Constitution” types and just do whatever you want. The Constitution, is, after all, only a piece of paper…

  10. the end of liberty greeted with thunderous applause. and an encore!

  11. …the calls and e-mail messages it intercepts under President Bush’s order allowing warrantless wiretaps are in fact “international,” as his order requires.

    And you believe that his order makes this distinction? You believe there is no executive order mandating national wiretaps? You believe anything this guy says?

    CBS Evening News (yeah. I know.) played a brief clip of Bush affirming, in spring of 2004, that the US government would never allow warrantless wiretaps. “A wiretap requires a court order…. When we’re talking about tracking down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before doing so.”

    Incompetent, fundamentally dishonest, this man will do “whatever it takes”.

  12. “But this complication again raises the question of why the NSA is even trying to avoid domestic calls and messages, given President Bush’s broad view of his own powers in fighting terrorism.”

    Who says that they are? Bush and the NSA would have to avoid the FISA court in order to spy on purely domestic communications. The given reason of immediacy for wiretapping domestic-to-overseas communications is clearly a red herring. I think that they are wiretapping everything.

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