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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Over?

The Associated Press has a report, Spy chief reveals classified surveillance details, based on a El Paso Times interview:

WASHINGTON – National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell pulled the curtain back on previously classified details of government surveillance and of a secretive court whose recent rulings created new hurdles for the Bush administration as it tries to prevent terrorism.

McConnell’s comments were made in an interview with the El Paso Times last week and posted as a transcript on the newspaper’s web site Wednesday.

Three points really struck me:

  1. McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector assisted with President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program.
  2. McConnell said a ruling that went into effect May 31 required the government to get court warrants to monitor communications between two foreigners if the conversation travels on a wire in the U.S. network.
  3. McConnell said it takes 200 hours to assemble a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. “We’re going backwards,” he said. “We couldn’t keep up.”

The Telcoms didn’t need to see this in public. They are being sued over this and he has blown their cover. They can no longer claim they can’t talk about it. McConnell has just screwed them royally.

If McConnell is right about the ruling, he should be appealing it, because it is wrong. The rule on wire tapping has always dealt with the terminals, not the location of the tap. This should be a slam dunk appeal for a semi-competent attorney.

The semi-competent attorney may be the problem at the heart of the third bit: 200 hours!? Look, this has to be writer’s block, because warrant requests are boilerplate. There’s a form and you fill in the blanks. If they are spending 200 hours on a warrant request either they have absolutely no justification and these are creative writing exercises, or they really need to hire a couple of paralegals from a decent community college. If they would start hiring people for their ability instead of political affiliation they might see that drop to about 2 hours for a Tolstoi-quality, totally bogus warrant request.


1 whig { 08.22.07 at 11:10 pm }

200 hours per warrant request? Is this like one hour times two hundred people involved in the process?

2 Bryan { 08.22.07 at 11:31 pm }

You got me, Whig. In ten years I never spent more than an hour on a warrant request. You either have the information needed or you don’t. I usually did them for my department because I could type and knew the questions that had to be answered. The New York warrants are harder to get than Federal warrants and regular Federal warrants are harder to get than FISA warrants, based on everything I’ve seen.

3 Steve Bates { 08.23.07 at 12:59 am }

How ironic. McConnell just played the “be very afraid – loose lips sink ships – Americans are gonna DIE if you talk about FISA” card on Wednesday. And here he is, talking out of school. These guys must truly hate the intelligence community… or maybe they’re just too stupid for words.

200 hours? gimme a break!

4 Bryan { 08.23.07 at 10:40 am }

These people have leaked more information about NSA activities than any other administration ever. They are the least secure group of politicians I have ever encountered on national security, while being the most secretive about what’s going on in the White House.