On Privacy.................

John Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Fri Mar 30 06:57:16 MDT 2007



>
>Tapping into privacy
>
>
>We're being snooped on without proper oversight, 
>and it is time to start caring about the law and our right to privacy again.
>
>
>
>By ROBYN BLUMNER
>Published March 25, 2007
>
>It just goes to show you what six years of this 
>administration has done to our national psyche. 
>After the torture memos, "state-secrets" 
>defenses, the demise of habeas corpus and secret 
>overseas prisons, what's a little invasion of privacy?
>
>If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't 
>lose his job due to the bombshell report from 
>Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, 
>finding that the FBI flagrantly disregarded 
>express limits on its snooping abilities, then 
>we have become completely inured to the Bush administration's outrages.
>
>Part of me feels sorry for the schmoes that 
>President Bush has surrounded himself with, 
>people like hapless Harriet Miers, his former 
>White House counsel and the lapdog Gonzales. The 
>attorney general has had some of the top legal 
>jobs in the nation, including a stint on the 
>Texas Supreme Court, because his pal George kept 
>pulling him along. But Gonzales is not a 
>sophisticated legal thinker. He is a loyal, partisan, sycophantic hack.
>
>On the Charlie Rose Show in June 2005, Gonzales 
>was promoting the reauthorization of the USA 
>Patriot Act. Some of its provisions were set to 
>expire at the end of that year and there were 
>plenty of critics, including myself, saying that 
>the act had gone too far in trenching on civil liberties.
>
>Gonzales told viewers "if you look honestly at 
>the facts, one must conclude ... that the act 
>has not been used to infringe upon civil liberties."
>
>Now, thanks to Inspector General Fine's findings, we know the honest facts.
>
> From 2003 to 2005, the act was used as cover to 
> violate the privacy of potentially thousands of 
> people in this country. Gonzales' assurances 
> were as empty as were his confirmation hearing 
> claims that he would act independently of the White House.
>
>Fine was charged with reviewing the FBI's use of 
>an administrative subpoena power known as 
>"national security letters" (NSLs). These 
>letters allow the FBI to collect personal 
>telephone and e-mail records as well as credit 
>reports and other financial records without having to get court approval.
>
>The original USA Patriot Act loosened controls 
>on NSLs. It used to be that they were only 
>available under very narrow circumstances - to 
>gather information pertaining to an agent of a 
>foreign power. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI 
>could now use NSLs whenever the records sought 
>are "relevant" to an ongoing terrorist or espionage investigation.
>
>Gathering confidential records without any court 
>supervision meant the FBI was on its honor to 
>police itself, so that innocent people's privacy wouldn't be invaded.
>
>But just the opposite occurred. The agency went 
>hog wild. Between 2003 and 2005, it made 143,000 
>NSL demands for information, where each demand 
>could be for thousands of records. In 2004, for 
>example, a request for information involving 
>11,000 separate phone numbers was made using just nine NSLs.
>
>The report found some of this personal 
>information wasn't even examined. It was just 
>uploaded into three separate FBI databases, 
>where it could be accessed by thousands of FBI 
>and non-FBI employees. There was no process for 
>deleting records when it was clear that they 
>involved innocent people. The inspector general 
>found NSLs were used to collect information 
>about people "two or three steps removed from 
>their subjects" without there being suspicious 
>ties. He found that increasingly the agency was 
>focusing on gathering data on Americans and residents.
>
>Then, after all this, the FBI self-reported that 
>only 153 criminal proceedings (which includes 
>things like search warrants in addition to 
>trials) emanated from its 143,000 NSL requests. 
>And the inspector general could document only 
>one case in which the use of an NSL led to a 
>terrorism conviction. One material support for terrorism conviction. That's it.
>
>All the added license given the FBI under the 
>Patriot Act apparently wasn't enough. Fine's 
>126-page report found case after case of serious 
>misuse of its NSL powers. He attributed it to 
>mismanagement and sloppiness. In my book, it was 
>arrogance and a culture of unaccountability and imperviousness.
>
>On hundreds of occasions, the FBI demanded that 
>companies give up their clients' personal 
>information without an NSL, claiming it was an 
>emergency request and that subpoenas were 
>coming. It wasn't true. No subpoenas had been 
>requested, no NSLs were forthcoming and often no emergency existed.
>
>This utter disregard for privacy rights and the 
>oversight that traditionally protect that 
>privacy, is nothing new for this Justice 
>Department. Gonzales defended the 
>administration's warrantless domestic 
>wiretapping program. Why should we expect him to 
>keep the FBI operating within lawful bounds?
>
>In that Charlie Rose interview Gonzales said the 
>president "cares very much about the rule of 
>law" and that anyone not respecting it would be 
>"held accountable." Well then, bye-bye Alberto.
>
>It just goes to show you what six years of this 
>administration has done to our national psyche. 
>After the torture memos, "state-secrets" 
>defenses, the demise of habeas corpus and secret 
>overseas prisons, what's a little invasion of privacy?
>
>If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't 
>lose his job due to the bombshell report from 
>Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, 
>finding that the FBI flagrantly disregarded 
>express limits on its snooping abilities, then 
>we have become completely inured to the Bush administration's outrages.
>
>Part of me feels sorry for the schmoes that 
>President Bush has surrounded himself with, 
>people like hapless Harriet Miers, his former 
>White House Counsel and the lapdog Gonzales. The 
>attorney general has had some of the top legal 
>jobs in the nation, including a stint on the 
>Texas Supreme Court, because his pal George kept 
>pulling him along. But Gonzales is not a 
>sophisticated legal thinker. He is a loyal, 
>partisan, sycophantic hack, a fact laid bare 
>during the U.S. attorney firing debacle.
>
>During an appearance on The Charlie Rose Show in 
>June 2005, Gonzales' was promoting the 
>reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. Some of 
>its provisions were set to expire at the end of 
>that year and there were plenty of critics, 
>including myself, saying that the act had gone 
>too far in trenching on civil liberties.
>
>Gonzales told viewers "if you look honestly at 
>the facts, one must conclude ... that the act 
>has not been used to infringe upon civil liberties."
>
>Now, thanks to Inspector General Fine's findings, we know the honest facts.
>
> From 2003 to 2005 the act was used to violate 
> the privacy of potentially thousands of people 
> in this country. Gonzales' assurances were as 
> empty as were his confirmation hearing claims 
> that he would act independently of the White House.
>
>Fine was charged with reviewing the FBI's use of 
>an administrative subpoena power known as 
>"national security letters" (NSLs).These letters 
>allow the FBI to collect personal telephone and 
>e-mail records as well as credit reports and 
>other financial records without having to get court approval.
>
>The original USA Patriot Act loosened controls 
>on NSLs. It used to be that they were only 
>available under very narrow circumstances -to 
>gather information pertaining to an agent of a 
>foreign power. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI 
>could now use NSLs whenever the records sought 
>are "relevant" to an ongoing terrorist or espionage investigation.
>
>Getting out from under any court supervision 
>meant the FBI was on its honor to police itself, 
>so that innocent people's privacy wouldn't be invaded.
>
>But just the opposite occurred. The agency went 
>hog wild. Between 2003 and 2005 it made 143,000 
>NSL demands for information, where each demand 
>could be for thousands of records. In 2004, for 
>example, a request for information involving 
>11,000 separate phone numbers was made using just nine NSLs.
>
>The report found that some of this personal 
>information wasn't even examined. It was just 
>uploaded into three separate FBI databases, 
>where it could be accessed by thousands of FBI 
>and non-FBI employees. There was no process for 
>deleting records when it was clear that the 
>subject was innocent. The inspector general 
>found that NSLs were used to gather information 
>about people "two or three steps removed from 
>their subjects" without there being suspicious 
>connections. He found that increasingly the 
>agency was focusing its attention on gathering 
>data on Americans and lawful permanent residents.
>
>Then, after all this, the FBI self-reported that 
>only 153 criminal proceedings (which includes 
>things like search warrants in addition to 
>trials) emanated from its 143,000 NSL requests. 
>And the inspector general could document only 
>one case in which the use of an NSL led to a 
>terrorism conviction. One material support for terrorism conviction. That's it.
>
>Yet, even with all the added license given the 
>FBI under the Patriot Act, it wasn't enough. 
>Fine's report found that the agency engaged in 
>widespread misuse of its NSL powers.
>
>On hundreds of occasions, the FBI demanded that 
>companies give up their clients' personal 
>information without an NSL, claiming it was an 
>emergency request and that subpoenas were 
>coming. It wasn't true. No subpoenas had been 
>requested, no NSLs were forthcoming and often no emergency existed.
>
>This utter disregard for privacy rights and the 
>oversight processes that traditionally protected 
>that privacy, is nothing new for this Justice 
>Department. Gonzales defended the 
>administration's warrantless domestic 
>wiretapping program. Why should we expect him to 
>keep the FBI operating within lawful bounds?
>
>In that Charlie Rose interview Gonzales said the 
>president "cares very much about the rule of 
>law" and that anyone not respecting it would be 
>"held accountable." Well then, bye-bye Alberto.
>
>© 2007 • All Rights Reserved • St. Petersburg Times
>490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
>__._,_.___
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