Feeds

FISA warrants on a roll - but who needs a warrant?

A toast to Dick

The Power of One Infographic

Comment The Honorable Richard B. Cheney...Dear Mr. President.....

Drum roll, please.

It's like the Price is Right for conspiracy theorists, the annual release to Congress of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) statistics. How many this year? Did the court tell the spooks to pound sand even once?

The FISC is the secretive American court that approves or rejects - well, mostly approves - requests by the DOJ, National Security Agency (NSA), and other agencies to conduct top secret surveillance on individuals within the US who might - or might not - be threats to national security.

Considerable ink has been spilled over warrantless wiretapping on the part of the NSA that circumvented the court - even though the court already had the authority to approve wiretaps and other surveillance retroactively within seventy-two hours, under exigent circumstances. Those statistics are, of course, off the books, so we'll have to make do with what was provided.

So how did they do this year? Well, 2007 was another banner year for the FISC, with a record 2,371 requests and 2,370 approvals. Technically, the court rejected three last year, but two approvals were requests originally submitted the previous year, so it's a net of one. Of course, since 1979, only a handful of requests have ever been rejected outright by the court.

We don't need no stinkin' warrants

In fact, according to statistics compiled by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), it took the FISC twenty-four years to reject its first FISA application, in 2003. Of course, the Cheney administration argument for warrantless wiretapping authority is as specious as it is disingenuous - the administration claims that it takes two hundred hours to prepare a warrant, rather than the seventy-two allowed retroactively, which means that either the new breed of spook is almost three times as slow as its ancestors, and that the seventy-two hours should be stretched to two hundred hours to accommodate the current level of incompetence, or they're lying.

Sadly, experts warn us there's a good chance that warrantless wiretapping will leave the country less safe, rather than more.

It's hard to believe that this already neutered attempt at judicial review is to be bitch-slapped again, especially after the NSA admitted - er, it was an accident, of course - to purely domestic spying, but, since retroactive immunity for telecoms that conspired with the Bushies to pee on the Fourth Amendment is the only dispute left on the table, that does appear to be the case.

Fifth columnists rejoice

Of course, true totalitarianism requires the spirit of a quisling, which is why so much work must be outsourced. Millions of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) on Americans were quietly filed by American businesses, often incompetently or incorrectly, before Governor Spitzer met the call girl of his dreams - many processed by hand by a Native American tribe in North Dakota, if the rumor holds true. Halliburton wins a contract for domestic "temporary detention centers," and patrols the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and Senator McCain's pal Senator Lindsay Graham waxes on about the need for vigilance against "fifth columnists." A certain infrastructure has been laid for unforeseen domestic circumstances.

Although he is, technically, the President of the Senate, seeing Cheney formally addressed as "Mr. President" by a high-ranking DOJ official seems a bit rich. Here's to you, Dick. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.