Sunday, February 05, 2006

Why is the Bush Domestic spying program illegal ?

Wash. Post examines -- and explains why --the Bush domestic spying program is illegal
by Joe in DC - 2/05/2006 10:47:00 AM www.americablog.com


The article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/04/AR2006020401373.html)
is definitely worth a read. No one from the White House would comment for this piece -- they'll only give speeches and interviews where facts are considered. The Post examines how the spying program works, compared to how the Bush team says it does. And, importantly, the reporters explain why the program is illegal:
The Bush administration refuses to say -- in public or in closed session of Congress -- how many Americans in the past four years have had their conversations recorded or their e-mails read by intelligence analysts without court authority. Two knowledgeable sources placed that number in the thousands; one of them, more specific, said about 5,000.

The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.

Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, "wash out" most of the leads within days or weeks.

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.

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