NetworkWorld, 23 July 2012
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified three of Sen. Wyden’s comments about FISA power. It also admitted the U.S. has violated the Fourth Amendment at least once when it comes to warrantless wiretaps done under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
It’s official; the government’s spying efforts exceeded the legal limits at least once, meaning it is also officially “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) sent a letter [PDF] to Sen. Ron Wyden giving permission to admit that much.
This started with Sen. Wyden requesting that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) declassify some statements regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA). Although this FISA power is supposed to sunset in December 2012, in May a new senate bill extended the warrantless wiretapping program for five more years. That vote was regarded as the first step “toward what the Obama administration hopes will be a speedy renewal of an expanded authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the U.S. e-mails and phone calls of overseas targets in an effort to prevent international terrorist attacks on the country.” Before Congress votes, Sen Wyden wants it know more about such surveillance powers.
Wyden believes the FAA of 2008 “has sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law,” reported Politico. Although the DNI does not go so far as to admit that, it does not dispute that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found such massive surveillance to be “unreasonable” on “at least one occasion.”
After reviewing Wyden’s statements, the DNI wrote “that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.” According to the letter [PDF] that Danger Room acquired, the DNI agreed to declassify Wyden’s three statements that “narrowly confined to addressing the government’s use of Section 702.”
Sen. Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and knows so much more than the public about the ways and means of government spying. He previously warned the American public would be “stunned” and “angry” if we knew more about how the “secret law” of the Patriot Act is being used to justify surveillance. He also wants us to know more about FISA.
Phi Beta Iota: Our understanding is that NSA has layers of legal audit staff and is actually trying to do the right thing. Where this all breaks down is among other agencies such as the FBI, and at the state and local level where funding provided by DHS has been used to pay telephone companies for information that should in the spirit of the law require a warrant. At the strategic level, one has to call into question a secret Intelligence Community that spends $80 billion a year to produce “at best” 4% of what the President needs and nothing of substance for everyone else. Instead of continuing to fund a secret sink-hole, we should be creating a Smart Nation by establishing the Open Source Agency as the proponent for Open Source Everything across the land, starting in government.