• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Major Shock: Glenn Greenwald and Think Progress Are Completely Ignorant About FISA

    ABC News has a story out reporting that employees at the National Security Agency (NSA) listened in on “hundreds of US citizens overseas … as they called friends and family back home.” One employee described the contents of the calls as “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.” nother employee ws even more specific:

    Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

    “Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News.

    The left is trying to portray this as the end of civil liberties as we know it and is desperately trying to tie the incident to this summer’s debate over FISA.

    • Glenn Greenwald writes: “There is one reason and one reason only these abuses occurred: because George Bush broke the law — committed felonies — by ordering the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants.”
    • The Center for American Progress blares: “Ever since President Bush confirmed the existence of a National Security Administration wiretapping program in late 2005, he has insisted it is aimed only at terrorists’ calls and protects Americans’ civil liberties.”

    Don’t get us wrong. NSA employees have no business entertaining themselves by listening in on phone sex. The employees involved should be disciplined. But Greenwald and CAP leave out a huge detail. The same ABC story reports:

    “These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

    The phone calls in question were made on satellite phones. The U.S. government was not required by any law to obtain a warrant to listen in on satellite communications. Not before FISA was first passed in 1978, not after FISA passed, not after 9/11, and not after FISA was reauthorized in this summer.

    Again, no one condones what the NSA employees did here. But if the left wants to be taken seriously by their elected leaders in future congressional debates over FISA, they should try and get their facts straight. Here, again, they are 100% wrong.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Major Shock: Glenn Greenwald and Think Progress Are Completely Ignorant About FISA

    1. Soup, Massachusetts says:

      Regardless of the fact that it was a satellite phone, it only goes to show why these sort of sweeps are dangerous, especially with a lack of oversight.

      The FISA court, with this latest round of amendments, has been relegated to the role of a technical observer. They are allowed to comment on the viability of wiretapping procedures, but not the implementation or the results.

      In a poltically charged environment, this is dangerous. In fact, it's exactly what FISA, established after the Watergate scandal, was attempting to prevent: spying on Americans for political purposes.

      While it may not be the case here, it's not so far a step (especially with recent DoJ revelations regarding the firing of some 9 attorneys). I find it funny that conservatives espouse a small government and yet grant so much power to defeating a threat like terrorism.

      News Flash: the war on terror will never be over (unless we stop after al Qaeda, maybe not even then). People will always be driven to extremes, and as such people will always be driven to do extreme things.

    2. Pingback: Abusive? Sure. Illegal? Probably Not.

    3. Stu Wilde, Carefree says:

      I am always surprised when groups like the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks try to absolve the Bush Administration of any wrongdoing regardless of the alleged crimes. It seems political ideology trumps the rule of law. How can you love Freedom and everything the USA stands for, but then not be alarmed, angry and disgusted by abuses to our Constitution? How are we protecting ourselves against Terrorism by listening to personal phone calls of U.S. citizens? How does that help? I thought our Government told us 19 arab-muslim hijackers beat the Bush Administration's defense to attack us on 9/11? If that is correct, then why are we spying on U.S. citizens discussing personal details via satellite phones? It just doesn't make sense.

      I think this issue is more insidious and treacherous. This Administration — whether it's torturing detainees, spying on U.S. citizens, creating kangaroo courts in GITMO, or [insert one of the many crimes of the bush administration], the bottom line is that we are weaker as a country because of the loss of civil liberties. Bush is supposed to defend the Constitution, not defend the country. But I suppose that concept is too sophisticated to digest.

    4. cre, new orleans says:

      The author of this post is wrong. The FISA law clearly states that any monitoring device that is used or installed within the United States is considered electronic surveillance if the person being monitored would have had a reasonable presumption of privacy or if a warrant would have been required for law enforcement organizations.

      Read it for yourself here.

      http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/50/usc_sec_50_

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×