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

Thomas Matiska tom.matiska at ATT.NET
Fri Mar 30 11:12:03 MDT 2007


If  Bush's treatment of the Constitution was half as bad as the previous occupant of the White House, the FBI files of the fired prosecutors would have been in the hands of a former bar bouncer,  and nobody in the White Hose would know(or admit they knew)  how that bouncer came to be hired.   And what about snooping with out a warrant?  The warrant process that Janet Reno's Justice  Dept used(abused) at Waco and Ruby Ridge made a mockery of our Constitution, but now passes  for the good old days in the minds of todays Bush bashers...

W  has probably done more to strengthen or Constitution than anybody now realizes..... if only because  a whole generation of lefties who didn't know what the Constitution was during the 90's now suddenly give a damn.... ....about some parts at least.........just not the parts that protect gun ownership and the unborn

Tom




 
-------------- Original message from John Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET:


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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