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The Tally Ho

Thursday, March 09, 2006


A couple things that caught my eye this morning. Apparently the GOP Senate has agreed to give the administration 45 days of wiretapping before going to a court - and read the 'oversight.' The article points out Sen. Specter may not be happy about it, but he seems to eventually back the administration after making critical statements. Read Sen. Rockefeller's comments. He writes “As one of the few members of Congress who have been briefed on this program, I can honestly say the worst mistake we could make at this juncture is to legislate or attempt to amend FISA without having all the facts.” Also check out Big Brother is Listening from the April Atlantic. Here is a tease
Such facts worry Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who worked for the NSA as an intern while in law school in the 1980s. The FISA “courtroom,” hidden away on the top floor of the Justice Department building (because even its location is supposed to be secret), is actually a heavily protected, windowless, bug-proof installation known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. “When I first went into the FISA court as a lowly intern at the NSA, frankly, it started a lifetime of opposition for me to that court,” Turley recently told a group of House Democrats looking into the NSA’s domestic spying. “I was shocked with what I saw. I was convinced that the judge in that SCIF would have signed anything that we put in front of him. And I wasn’t entirely sure that he had actually read what we put in front of him. But I remember going back to my supervisor at NSA and saying, ‘That place scares the daylights out of me.’”

Lamberth bristles at any suggestion that his court routinely did the administration’s bidding. “Those who know me know the chief justice did not put me on this court because I would be a rubber stamp for whatever the executive branch was wanting to do,” he said in his speech. “I ask questions. I get into the nitty-gritty. I know exactly what is going to be done and why. And my questions are answered, in every case, before I approve an application.”

It is true that the court has been getting tougher. From 1979 through 2000, it modified only two out of 13,087 warrant requests. But from the start of the Bush administration, in 2001, the number of modifications increased to 179 out of 5,645 requests. Most of those—173—involved what the court terms “substantive modifications.”

This friction—and especially the requirement that the government show “probable cause” that the American whose communications they are seeking to target is connected in some way to a terrorist group—induced the administration to begin circumventing the court. Concerned about preventing future 9/11-style attacks, President Bush secretly decided in the fall of 2001 that the NSA would no longer be bound by FISA. Although Judge Lamberth was informed of the president’s decision, he was ordered to tell no one about it—not even his clerks or his fellow FISA-court judges.

Also from the Times, 'Brokeback Couples.'

It looks like Mr. Abramoff is talking, writes TPM Muckraker, and here is the Vanity Fair article.

Today on the Brian Lehrer Show they were discussing the potential impact of South Dakota law banning abortion. But something caught my ear - the guest, Slate's Emily Bazelon, made some interesting comments. Most interesting was how if a woman's right to choose is rejected by a future court on the grounds that it is not a right of privacy, the 14th Amendment would be argued on the grounds that it interferes with ones religious faith - that banning abortion could be viewed as the government choosing one religion over another. The example given was Orthodox vs. Reform Judaism. There were a few good calls as well. Long live Justice Stevens!


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