Bush wants expanding spying powers

041106spy.jpgPresident Bush’s spy chief is pushing to expand the government’s surveillance authority at the same time the administration is under attack for stretching its domestic eavesdropping powers.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell (left) has circulated a draft bill that would expand the government’s powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, liberalizing how that law can be used.

Known as “FISA,” the 1978 law was passed to allow surveillance in espionage and other foreign intelligence investigations, but still allow federal judges on a secretive panel to ensure protections for U.S. citizens — at home or abroad — and other permanent U.S. residents.

The changes McConnell is seeking mostly affect a cloak-and-dagger category of warrants used to investigate suspected spies, terrorists and other national security threats. The court-approved surveillance could include planting listening devices and hidden cameras, searching luggage and breaking into homes to make copies of computer hard drives.

McConnell, who took over the 16 U.S. spy agencies and their 100,000 employees less than three months ago, is signaling a more aggressive posture for his office and will lay out his broad priorities on Wednesday as part of a 100-day plan.

The retired Navy vice admiral recently met with leaders at the National Security Agency, Justice Department and other agencies to learn more about the rules they operate under and what ties their hands, according to officials familiar with the discussions and McConnell’s proposals. The officials described them on condition that they not be identified because the plans are still being developed.

According to officials familiar with the draft changes to FISA, McConnell wants to:

_Give the NSA the power to monitor foreigners without seeking FISA court approval, even if the surveillance is conducted by tapping phones and e-mail accounts in the United States.

“Determinations about whether a court order is required should be based on considerations about the target of the surveillance, rather than the particular means of communication or the location from which the surveillance is being conducted,” NSA Director Keith Alexander told the Senate last year.

_Clarify the standards the FBI and NSA must use to get court orders for basic information about calls and e-mails — such as the number dialed, e-mail address, or time and date of the communications. Civil liberties advocates contend the change will make it too easy for the government to access this information.

_Triple the life span of a FISA warrant for a non-U.S. citizen from 120 days to one year, allowing the government to monitor much longer without checking back in with a judge.

_Give telecommunications companies immunity from civil liability for their cooperation with Bush’s terrorist surveillance program. Pending lawsuits against companies including Verizon and AT&T allege they violated privacy laws by giving phone records to the NSA for the program.

_Extend from 72 hours to one week the amount of time the government can conduct surveillance without a court order in emergencies.

McConnell, Alexander and a senior Justice Department official will appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on April 17 to discuss whether to amend the FISA law. Chad Kolton, McConnell’s spokesman, declined to comment on the director’s proposals.

Government officials have been publicly and privately discussing changes to FISA since last year. A senior intelligence official said the goal is to update the law to ensure Americans’ constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure, while improving use of government resources to pursue threats against U.S. interests.

Critics question whether the changes are needed and worry about what the Bush administration has in store, given a rash of allegations about domestic surveillance and abuse of power. “Congress should certainly be very skeptical about proposals to give this government greater powers to spy on its own citizens,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the Washington legislative office director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposed changes to domestic surveillance would be so broad that “you have basically done away with the protections of the FISA,” said Kate Martin, head of the Center for National Security Studies.

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who unsuccessfully sponsored legislation last year to update FISA, said Congress must act because current court orders bolstering the president’s terrorist surveillance program are legally shaky. She wants the law to be rewritten to ensure the NSA can continue the program.

Bush has faced months of criticism for his 2001 decision to order the NSA to monitor the international calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when terrorism is suspected. More recently, the Justice Department and FBI have been sharply rebuked for bad bookkeeping and other mistakes involving their powers under the USA Patriot Act to secretly demand Americans’ e-mail, financial and other personal records through so-called national security letters. Top government officials have tried to dampen the outrage by promising accountability and have argued that the letters are essential tools to protect against terror threats.

McConnell hinted at his discomfort with current laws last week during a speech before an audience of government executives, saying he worries that current laws and regulations prevent intelligence agencies from using all of their capabilities to protect the nation.

“That’s the big challenge going forward,” he said, acknowledging changes would require significant congressional debate.



On the Web:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence: http://www.dni.gov/

Verizon Communications Inc: http://www.verizon.com/

AT&T Inc.: http://www.att.com/

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Donna

    if Bush has to keep asking for more powers and extending tours of duty.

    Every time this group of thugs asks for something more, America needs to remember what they’ve done with what they’ve been given.

  2. anthny

    There are 16 spy agencies and 100,000 empolyees.
    What do all these people do? And why in the world would we need so many spys?
    And where were these people when 9/11 was going down?
    If they want to find spy’s look into AIPAC, they have been spying on us for years and were even caught red handed giving top secret documents to there embassy.
    But if they looked to deep into AIPAC a lot of politicians would go down the tubes along with the millions of dollars we give to ZIONISTS.
    They in turn buy our politicians and then the politicians have the loans forgiven.
    Nice work if you can get it, screwing your own country for money. Is that what they call treason?

  3. Cougar

    What Bush wants is total control over every aspect of Americans lives. He wants to invade every ounce of privacy one has if anyone has any anymore.
    I was listening to one of the News stations this morning before going to work and a woman was stopped for speeding and STRIP SEARCHED. Apparently that is standard procedure if your a not an American citizen. That is just sick. THAT IS INSANITY.
    Like come on give it a rest, I mean really the poor woman was totally humiliated.

  4. Paolo

    A few radical suggestions on moving towards a free society (from our current, pre-fascist society).

    1) Eliminate all spy agencies. If we had a Ron Paul foreign policy (no foreign interventionism), then we wouldn’t need spies. These creepy little creatures–a hundred thousand of them!–couldn’t predict 9/11. Get rid of them!

    2) Outlaw any stationing of US troops outside the actual territory of the US, except in times of properly declared war (that is, per the Constitution, war declared by Congress).

    3) Automatic removal from office of any President who starts a war without congressional declaration.

    4) Reduce the size of the military to enough to defend the US borders from any realistically conceivable attack. This would probably be about a 90 percent reduction in force.

    5) Make impeachment a regular, common action against the President, for any “high crimes” or even just “misdemeanors.” Public lying about a phony justification for war, in other words, is at least a “misdemeanor.”

    6) Break up the US into several (how about 50?) independent countries. Something we might call a confederation. Break up this mischief-creating union! Give DC to Maryland and wish them luck.

    7) Starve them out! Eliminate the income tax and finance a much smaller central government on a national sales tax of no more than five percent. Eliminate about 90 percent of the federal government.

    8) In concise terms: fight for a Libertarian society.

  5. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    It’s clear these wretches have abused the powers given them.

    The cabal has parlayed the fear they manufactured into a mechanism used to subvert the privacy rights of the nation.

    The “terrorists” are of domestic origin.

    The nation needs to know who was responsible for enabling 19 guys to somehow turn our vaunted, trillion dollar military into chimps.

  6. Shirley Blaylock

    Didn’t we get enough of this with McCarthy and Hoover. They didn’t accomplish much except to ruin the lives and careers of alot of innocent people.
    Give George books and all he does is look at the pictures. This man has a college degree? I guess money can buy anything except brains.

  7. The South Point

    We MUST be protected from… TERRORISTS!!! Those nasty, indecent, unwashed, frothing-at-the-mouth TERRORISTS who want so much to DESTROY our sweet and wholesome American Way Of Life!

    Just being nitpicky: that should be “martial law”…

    For Marshall Law, go here…
    Heavy metal forever, du-u-u-udes…! And please try not to fall over and off the balcony because you’re too damn drunk. I hate that happening at a concert. Kind of ruins the fun.

    Another nitpicky point aimed at the feds: the federal government exists ONLY at the pleasure of the 50 sovereign states. The federal government exists only to serve the 50 states and NOT the other way around. The federal government has no other purpose.

  8. Ray

    The district of columbia is not a state. Just what is it? Why does the american flag have gold fringe only when flown in DC or in federal courts? I think it has to do with maritime law verses constitutional law being applied. There is a big difference between the two that does not favor common citizens. I agree with south point.

    We should not have hundreds of military bases in every part of the world. We should cut the military to only what it takes for border security. Just imagine what all the trillions of dollars saved could do for improving the social structure and way of life for all americans.

    This war mentality and war machine that we have financed is an evil and ever consuming monster that will turn and eat us alive. Is it not obvious that there is no good that comes from this military-corporate-zionist faction that has a strangle hold on the very meaning of our freedom and basic rights afforded by the constitution?

  9. Cougar

    Hey now there’s a plan and while we are at it why not make war Illegal all around the planet. Start a war and you go to jail as soon as you can get your hands on them. That would infuriate the war toy makers who make millions or billions of dollars on war.
    But your plan Paolo is a great one.

  10. Isn’t the power to arrest, torture, and murder people on a random basis enough. Stalin didn’t need hearsay. He just destroyed lives wholesale.

  11. mike

    “he worries that current laws and regulations prevent intelligence agencies from using all of their capabilities to protect the nation”

    Translated: Our political enemies are surprisingly resilient. We must completely destroy the Constitution so that we may crush our political enemies and ensure our continued place in the power structure.

  12. Ray

    The attacks of 911 were the result of a desire by a few to change the status quo. In order to successfully remove a free countries freedom and rights of its citizens, there has to be a cause that fools the citizens into allowing thier own enslavement through fear and anger. This was done by design with 911. The same producers of that horror are producing the horror in the middle east and the ones who keep taking more and more civil liberties away from americans, all in the phoney war on terror. It was started with government sponsored terror and continues with government secrecy ever increasing.
    This is a war on america and the basic concept of freedom.
    Untill the masses of brain dead sheeples realize what and where the war is about and is going, we will continue the slide into a police state of spys and surviellence and of course, no freedom. The whole terror threat is designed to instill fear when in truth, it can’t pose the threat they want you to believe it does. Homeland Security is in fact the base of a government control police force designed to incorporate the use of the military with local police agencys to enable absolute control over citizens. There is no other logical result from the obvious intentions of NSA to monitor all american citizens

  13. Sonorous pest

    Congress must step in and impeach this group of escaped lunatics.
    Impeach, Impeach, Impeach, Impeach, Impeach, Impeach.

  14. Wayne K Dolik

    The enemy is we. The sooner we all realize this the better off we will be. This is a thinly veiled war on the American citizen, cloaked in secrecy. Increasing the power of Government is an invitation to Marshall Law. Would you like another 4 years of the Decider?

  15. C. Nemo

    As I clicked on the title “Bush Wants Expanding Spy Powers” and slowly scrolled down I saw the frightful face of the consumate, Orwellian bureaucrat; i.e., Mike McConnel. I rarely nail someone on an ad hominem basis, in this case looks, but my heart jumped because he reminded me of the characters in the ’85’ Monty Python movie “Brazil” which is a film dedicated to a citizens frightful encounters with the authorities in an over-the-top totalitarian state.

    The Senate recently approved this guys appointment in spades. Now our traitorous “republicrats” who gave us the Patriot Act (unread), the Military Commissions Act (lotsa feigned concern), will no doubt rubber stamp modifications to the FISA Act. Of course Arlen Specter-R will have his nose in the works as Mr. Compromise and in the end the Bushistas will get their way again for the umpty-umpth time. As always “we the people” will lose again big-time unless we react with over-whelming opposition to anymore of this nonsense. The FBI and our intelligence services did a rotten job protecting us from 9/11 and they had all the laws on the books necessary to do their job properly, but for some reason they all had “management oversight” problems at the highest levels when valid intelligence made it to their desks. All too convenient I say to help them facilitate their Orwellian schemes for absolute control over Americans and the world in general. They are so efficient with all their new powers, that they manage to keep infants off airplanes because they too end up on the TSA’s,”no fly” list…?!

    Folks as I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, all citizen patriots regardless of party affiliation need to get off their collective duffs and start making those necessary calls to their elected reps and not only say no, but “hell no” to any further expansion of surveillance over American citizens! Millions complain, but they never, ever take the effort to make those necessary calls to their reps. It was only several weeks ago that the FBI was exposed for not doing their job properly relative to the Patriot Act?! Has anything been done about it…NO! Just a bunch of boohoo hand-wringing on the part of our elected disappointments. I’ll provide two links. One is the duty link for contacting your reps and the other is so you can enroll in an email alert that shows you how your elected rep votes during their term in office. You have watch them like a hawk and if they are voting for a NWO/MIC/AIPAC globalists ‘r us, police state agenda then they do not need to go back to D.C….period! America and the free world is in harms way with these PNAC, neo-con mattoids in control. This can have only continued with more than willing helpers on both sides of the aisle…traitors all to the Constitution and the Republic for which it stands…!


  16. Shag

    How can they continually get fail and still attempt to get this crock of mess through. Nothing they’ve done has worked. I listen to them attempting to hedge on the terrorist front: “We haven’t been hit since 9/11, yet the terrorist will strike again.” Well, if that’s the case, how are they making us safer?
    I worked with special ed. kids for 24 years, and they had more rhyme to their reason.

  17. To micro-chip your butt and take a DNA sample after your mandatory protoscope exam or routine roadside body cavity search following a traffic violation? They have enough spying power already. Congress can pass a law with “protective oversight” that 10 foot plus alligators aren’t allowed to nibble on you, but jump in some river down here in the southeast and try swimming pass some hungry gator. Given additional to power to spy to these various agencies is no different. If you want an example of the possible abuse, check out my Petition to Gov. Crist at http://www.governmentspying.blogspot.com . I can prove what I’ve charged in my understated, sanitized, and condensed Petition. Do you really believe that the government would have any problem doing this to anyone that they want to?

  18. …did I forget to mention that the military also spys on American citizens? Sometimes they even co-ordinate with civilian law enforcement. Oh, excuse me, that’s not polite to say as it offends our democratic sensibilities and upsets some of our so-called “Representatives” because they’re supposed to safeguard our “freedom” in our land of the free and home of the brave. Congress already knows about some of these programs. So do you really think that this is a good idea to “keep us safe” or turn us into some totalitarian fascist’s wet dream?