Feeds

Judge ruled against NSA surveillance in US

Bush move against star-chamber not coincidental

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The Bush administration's attempt to change laws governing wiretapping by US spies was prompted by a defeat in the FISA secret star-chamber court, it has emerged.

Newsweek reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, quoting an unnamed legal source "who has been briefed on the order", revealed yesterday that a FISA(Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) judge has refused to renew a warrant for at least part of the National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance programme.

Originally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the President's men claimed that the executive branch needed no judicial or legislative approval for its actions.

Even the compliant dial-a-judges of the star-chamber weren't consulted, and no provision for mass domestic surveillance was requested in the already draconian post-9/11 Patriot Act. Since the matter became public knowledge, however, parts of the NSA campaign have been placed under FISA review: and this has led to some activities being blocked.

Hints of the spooks' clash with the star-chamber beaks emerged this week in a Fox News interview with Congressional Republican leader John Boehner.

"There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner told the Fox anchor.

Now there's confirmation that it was, in fact, an FISA judge who issued that ruling, and that it was this judicial decision which had led the Bush administration to push for changes in the law.

Bush and the NSA contend they only want to spy on people outside the US; but in order to do so they want to tap communications in America. It is true that a lot of foreign phone calls, emails, IMs, and whatever are routed via the States.

Not many Americans would have a problem with their spies listening in on foreigners - that's what spies are supposed to do. But there is at least one obvious grey area, that of communications between people in America and those overseas - which are widely thought to have been subject to NSA mass surveillance in recent years.

In many cases, then, ordinary Americans are being spied on by their government - even if only to the extent of having their details shunted into big databases for mining. That's not what people pay their taxes for.

But the spectre of another 9/11 is a powerful political force, and the spook community has effectively said to Capitol Hill that if they aren't given free rein to eavesdrop they aren't taking the blame for the next atrocity. Even many Democrats in Washington, despite their dislike of the Bush administration - and of the increasingly hardline American internal-security climate - have yielded to this, and there is apparently a good chance of yet-greater federal spookery powers being approved soon, before the summer recess.

Reportedly, the main question to be settled is that of oversight, with the White House proposing that the Attorney General exercise control over the spies. However, the Democrats don't trust the current AG, Alberto Gonzales, and this is said to be a sticking point in negotiations.

Almost regardless of all this, a further continental-US bombing, hijacking, or other outrage is probably inevitable at some point. Even if the tiny jihadi minority among Muslims can somehow be suppressed, or anyway flagged up by supercomputer whenever they try anything, another homegrown-in-the-US-of-A Timothy McVeigh is bound to come along sooner or later.

Based on the measures which have come in since 9/11, and those now in the works, it seems safe to say that a sufficently murderous McVeigh imitator - whose attack would of itself be an insignificant pinprick on the mighty USA - could turn America into a total police state. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
UK.gov chucks £28m at F1 tech for buses and diggers plan
Well, not really F1 but who's heard of LMP and VLN*?
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.