Abuses Under FISA Regulations Revealed

The New York Times reports that wiretaps performed by the Bush administration exceeded what was allowed under the law:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional…

While the N.S.A.’s operations in recent months have come under examination, new details are also emerging about earlier domestic-surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip, current and former intelligence officials said.

After a contentious three-year debate that was set off by the disclosure in 2005 of the program of wiretapping without warrants that President George W. Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress gave the N.S.A. broad new authority to collect, without court-approved warrants, vast streams of international phone and e-mail traffic as it passed through American telecommunications gateways. The targets of the eavesdropping had to be “reasonably believed” to be outside the United States. Under the new legislation, however, the N.S.A. still needed court approval to monitor the purely domestic communications of Americans who came under suspicion.

In recent weeks, the eavesdropping agency notified members of the Congressional intelligence committees that it had encountered operational and legal problems in complying with the new wiretapping law, Congressional officials said.

Officials would not discuss details of the overcollection problem because it involves classified intelligence-gathering techniques. But the issue appears focused in part on technical problems in the N.S.A.’s ability at times to distinguish between communications inside the United States and those overseas as it uses its access to American telecommunications companies’ fiber-optic lines and its own spy satellites to intercept millions of calls and e-mail messages.

One official said that led the agency to inadvertently “target” groups of Americans and collect their domestic communications without proper court authority. Officials are still trying to determine how many violations may have occurred.

Glenn Greenwald further discusses these revelations. Andrew Sullivan notes the hypocrisy of many right wing bloggers. While they ignore real civil liberties violations under Bush, they have been distorting a report on right wing extremism (discussed here and here) to raise bogus civil liberties concerns regarding the Obama administration. It is also notable that nobody made a fuss over a Department of Homeland Security report on left wing extremism which was declassified in January (pdf of report here). Both the reports on left wing and right wing extremism were prepared by a Bush appointee.

Palin Place: Sarah Palin’s Father Slams Levi Johnston

The cast of supporting characters in America’s favorite soap opera has expanded. Sarah Palin’s father now has a speaking role:

In the new issue of Us Weekly (on newsstands today) Sarah Palin‘s father slams Levi Johnston — the 19-year-old father of Bristol Palin‘s baby — for recently badmouthing the Palin family in the press.

Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, tells Us Weekly that Johnston “has not contributed anything” to Tripp, who was born last December.

Johnston recently appeared on The Tyra Banks Show and claimed that the Alaska Gov. probably knew he was sleeping with Bristol when he lived under her roof. He followed up that interview by going on CBS’ The Early Show and claiming that the Palin family won’t let him be alone with his newborn son.

“I don’t agree with what he’s doing right now,” Heath tells Us of Johnston’s press tour. “It’s not right. He’s broke, so he’s trying to capitalize on this. I wish he’d take some of this money he’s making and buy some diapers with it.”

Johnston denies being paid for any interviews.

Anyone doubt that he’s looking for some way to profit from this?