Thursday, January 26, 2006

When blogging makes a difference

Two weeks ago I linked to Glenn Greenwald's legal blog Unclaimed Territoy. Glenn has been acutely parsing every excuse that has been put forth for the NSA warrantless domestic spying, and more generally, has been pointing out that this administration claims to have expanded unreviewable executive powers which are outside the rule of law (the Yoo doctrine.)

Greenwald has only been blogging since October, but he's already made a difference. Last Tuesday he uncovered the fact that General Hayden's defense of the NSA spying contradicted previous statements by James A. Baker of the Justice Dept, and now the Washington Post and the LA Times have picked up the story (although the Post, to it's discredit, doesn't credit Greenwald for his work.)

In the LA Times article, the spin is that the administration lied about wanting the FISA standards for obtaining a warrant reduced so as to avoid a public debate which might reveal the scope of the program. I find this to be a very feeble attempt at justification, as it is based on the silly presumption that terrorist would not be expecting to be spied on. Here's what Baker had to say in 2002 when he opposed the reduced FISA standards:

The reforms in those measures (the PATRIOT Act) have affected every single application made by the Department for electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected terrorists and have enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going "up" on those suspected terrorists in the United States.

One simple but important change that Congress made was to lengthen the time period for us to bring to court applications in support of Attorney General-authorized emergency FISAs. This modification has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats. Again, we are grateful for the tools Congress provided us last fall for the fight against terrorism. Thank you.

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