Senators Feinstein and Chambliss shuffle their feet about FISA

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) lamely tried to defend the Verizon call log wiretapping, which they full well know is actually part of a dragnet of all U.S. communications. Ed O’Keefe wrote for the Washingtohn Post yesterday, Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss explain, defend NSA phone records program,

Dianne Feinstein:

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

It has been briefed to Congress and the letters that we have distributed — and you’ll note on the dates, this is prior to the Patriot Act amendments coming before the body, each of those. As you know, this is just metadata. There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication. That can only be, these records, I’m not talking about content, the records can only be accessed under heightened standards. The information goes into a database, the metadata, but cannot be accessed without what’s called, and I quote, “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity.

As you know, and I’ve pointed out many times, there have been approximately 100 plots and also arrests made since 2009 by the FBI. I do not know to what extent metadata was used or if it was used, but I do know this: That terrorists will come after us if they can and the only thing we have to deter this is good intelligence. To understand that a plot is being hatched and to get there before they get to us.

She’s right about one thing: this has been going on for seven years at least. That stuff about it’s only metadata being looked at they know us pure bs: sure, under the letter of this particular FISA order to Verizon, maybe so, but both Senators know full well about the rest of what NSA is collecting, the larger scale of which the Washington Post revealed later that same day.

Saxby Chambliss:

Let me just emphasize, this is nothing particularly new. This has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the FISA authority and every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this.

To my knowledge, we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information. It is simply what we call metadata that is never utilized by any governmental agency unless they go back to the FISA court and show that there’s real cause as to why something within the metadata should be looked at.

That’s been very clear all along through the years of this program. It is proved meritorious, because we have gathered significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years.

Chambliss is either incredibly ignorant or lying through his teeth about “To my knowledge, we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.” Even he must have heard about EFF and Greenwald and Schneier and many others (mine, for example) opposition to this stuff for many years. I’m pretty sure I (among many others) complained directly to his office.

Here are Feinstein and Chambliss back in 2012 when they renewed FISAA. They look just as uncomfortable now as they did back then; they must know what they are doing is wrong. I call on President Obama to do what he promised in 2008 when he as Senator Obama voted for FISAA:

once I’m sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

Continued in next post, NSA PRISM, Writs of Assistance, Rattlesnakes, and the Fourth Amendment.


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