December 20, 2005
FISA, Data Mining, and Total Information Awareness

Emptywheel’s got a idea for a possible reason for Bush to believe that the FISA court is not capable of keeping up with the technological times.

The administration has claimed that the FISA court can’t act fast enough. This justification was immediately shot down by looking at the law, which allows for emergency wiretaps as long as a warrant is sought from the court within 72 hours from the start of the wiretap.

But emptywheel suggests that the issue may be with methodology. If the NSA spying strategies involve data-mining:

They find the communication patterns of a known Al Qaeda operative, and they start monitoring everyone who has similar communication patterns.

Which would explain why they needed to start monitoring large numbers of people at once.

Those involved in the program also said that the N.S.A.’s eavesdroppers might need to start monitoring large batches of numbers all at once, and that it would be impractical to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first, according to the officials.

Here they’re claiming that the numbers are too onerous to get warrants for all the monitored numbers. Elsewhere they claim it’s a time issue (which we know to be false, since you can get emergency taps under FISA). I’m suggesting the real issue was they couldn’t defend tapping all those numbers at once since the only thing that connected them was a pattern of similarity, not probable cause.

Which explains why Bush wanted to hide the program. It’s data profile layered on top (I’m guessing) of racial profiling divorced from any probable cause.

All of which would only be possible if the plans for Total Information Awareness had been carried through.

And of course you’ve read Sen. Rockefeller’s letter, which points in that direction as well…

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at December 20, 2005 02:11 AM
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The comments in the last post reminded me of that the Department of Defense is supposed to be conducting the intercepts--I think. I took it for granted that it was NSA. I too read Body of Secrets but haven't read the other two. With Rumsfeld or perhaps Cheney in charge, who knows what is going on?

Posted by: Buck on December 20, 2005 4:05 AM

I guess no one drove a stake through Poindexter's heart. Assuming he has one.

Posted by: palolololo on December 20, 2005 8:22 AM
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