Marcy Wheeler continues to have some of the most detailed analysis out there on the FISA amendments and what the Bush administration’s responses to them mean.
Recall that the administration has claimed, repeatedly, that its only goal with amending FISA is to make sure it can continue to wiretap overseas, even if that communication passed through the US. We always knew that claim was a lie, but the letter from McConnell and Mukasey finally makes that clear. Even still, they’re rebutting Feingold’s amendments–which they say “undermine significantly the core authorities” of the bill–with a bunch of misrepresentations about them, to avoid telling two basic truths (which Whitehouse and Feingold have said repeatedly, but which the Administration refuses to admit).
- They’re spying on Americans and refuse to stop
- They intend to keep spying on Americans even if the FISA Court tells them they’re doing so improperly
As I explained, the letter includes a list of amendments that, if they were passed, would spark a veto. Those include three Feingold amendments:
- 3979: segregating information collected on US persons
- 3913: prohibiting reverse targeting
- 3915: prohibiting the use of information collected improperly
All three of these amendments share one overall purpose–the limit the way the government uses this “foreign surveillance” to spy on Americans.
The Mukasey-McConnell attack on segregation is most telling. They complain that the amendment makes a distinction between different kinds of foreign intelligence (one exception to the segregation requirement in the amendment is for “concerns international terrorist activities directed against the United States, or activities in preparation therefor”), even while they claim it would “diminish our ability swiftly to monitor a communication from a foreign terrorist overseas to a person in the United States.” In other words, the complain that one of the only exceptions is for communications relating terrorism, but then say this will prevent them from getting communications pertaining to terrorism.
Wheeler has much more in defense of Feingold’s amendments from Mukasey and McConnell’s attacks. She concludes:
We’ve been talking about this FISA stuff for almost a year now. All this time, the Administration has claimed that it was only interested in wiretapping foreign circuits that transited the US. But that’s obviously just the start of what they insist on doing with this law.
They want to be able to spy on communications between the US and other countries without having to protect US person data through minimization or adequate targeting procedures. George Bush is basically trying to legalize his illegal spying program, all with the willing assistance of the US Congress.