As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spygate II: Still Spyin'

Eric Lichtblau and James Risen's latest:

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.

Well, at least it was unintentional.

"Overcollection" is a nice euphemistic phrase we're all going to have to get used to, I guess. What it means is that innocent Americans had their personal phone calls, emails and perhaps other communications targeted by this secretive shadow organization, because they couldn't determine if they were netting calls and emails from domestic sources or from abroad. But at the Times, they have a word limit, so, overcollection.

By all accounts, the Obama Administration discovered this overcollection right at the beginning of their tenure, and attempted to "resolve" it with new safeguards. Of course, the problem is having this expansive surveillance state at all, which was bound to result in mission creep.

Everything the ACLU and the left told you would happen by destroying the standards for domestic surveillance collection -- individualized suspicion, for instance -- has happened.

For some reason, this last bit was at the tail end of the story:

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 agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact — as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 — with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations, the official 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.

As Kevin Drum notes, this ought to focus the minds of those in Congress who had no problem allowing massive spying with the possibility of all kinds of privacy breaches and data collection. The NSA clearly has the technology to gather intelligence on every man, woman and child in the United States. We should simply not trust any governmental entity with that kind of power, it being so ripe for abuse. And some of us have been saying this for close to four years. Maybe those "right-wing extremists" who think Obama has us on the road to fascism might want to join us with their concerns at this point.

....Marcy Wheeler has a bit more. She thinks the violations were about minimization, "because there aren't many other civil liberties protections in FAA."

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