Monday, October 15, 2007

Telephonic memory hole

Seems people are trying to make hay out of the latest brouhaha about phone tapping, insinuating that Bush lied about the reason for telephonic surveillance. To wit, Joe Powell:
Allegations are emerging now that the NSA, authorized by the White House, began using warrantless surveillance programs months and months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 2001. The program was widespread and threats were leveled at phone companies who did not comply.
Aside from the fact this makes it sound like the administration WAS paying attention to terrorism before 9/11 unlike what critics have said, all one need do is take a trip back in time on the New York Sun (thanks to Macsmind) to the "Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994", signed into law by Bill Clinton before the Congress was taken over by Newt.

What? You've never heard of such a thing? You say the 90s were a decade of peace and prosperity, where the world loved America and the Constitution was still intact and before there was any of this evil Rendition stuff, er, extraordinary rendition stuff? Sure:
The act made clear that a court order isn't the only lawful way of obtaining call information, saying, "A telecommunications carrier shall ensure that any interception of communications or access to call-identifying information effected within its switching premises can be activated only in accordance with a court order or other lawful authorization."
"Or other lawful authorization" being the key phrase. Indeed:
The law that President Clinton signed into law and that was approved by voice votes in 1994 by a Democrat-majority House and a Democrat-majority Senate not only made clear the phone companies' "duty" to cooperate, it authorized $500 million in taxpayer funds to reimburse the phone companies for equipment "enabling the government, pursuant to a court order or other lawful authorization, to access call-identifying information that is reasonably available to the carrier." .
More background here.

Now, I realize Joe and others are focusing more on the Bush raison d'ĂȘtre or lack thereof, 9/11. Not sure if their purpose is truthery, political, or just a quest for facts. Since the NSA program still classified it's impossible to make accurate comparisons between then and now. But it sounds like what the Quest guy could have had a beef with whether that "other lawful authorization" part was indeed legal, if I'm reading this correctly.

If I'm not, and that's always possible, it's still worthwhile to point out that the Clinton administration was doing a lot under the table to combat terrorism back in the 90s, things the MSM either kept quiet about or had no interest of turning into political hatchets.

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