The unworkability of FISA in its present form was dramatically highlighted in Congressional testimony yesterday:
U.S. authorities racing to find three kidnapped American soldiers in Iraq last May labored for nearly 10 hours to get legal authority for wiretaps to help in the hunt, an intelligence official told Congress on Thursday.
The top U.S. spy agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, sent Congress a timeline detailing the wiretap effort as the Bush administration makes its case to wary Democrats for a permanent expansion of its authority to eavesdrop on the foreign communications of terrorism suspects.
The timeline shows that at 10 a.m. EDT on May 15, after three days of developing leads on the whereabouts of the three soldiers who went missing south of Baghdad, U.S. agencies met to discuss ways of obtaining more intelligence.
Concluding at 12:53 p.m. EDT that requirements for emergency eavesdropping approval had been met, officials spent more than four hours debating “novel and complicated issues” in the case. They spent about more two hours to obtain final approval from then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was traveling.
The wiretap began at 7:38 p.m.. Authorities then had 72 hours to obtain a special court’s endorsement of the emergency authority, which was granted, a U.S. official said.
But wait! The surveillance was on terrorists in Iraq. So why was authorization needed first by the Attorney General, and then by a FISA judge?
McConnell told the committee last week that an outdated provision in the eavesdropping law made the approval necessary because the targeted foreign communications were carried in part on a wire inside the United States.
“We are extending Fourth Amendment (constitutional) rights to a terrorist foreigner … who’s captured U.S. soldiers,” he said, arguing that this was unnecessary and burdensome.
This infuriating state of affairs will continue if the Democrats get their way.
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