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January 14, 2007

Army Manual Asserts Right To Warrantless Wiretaps Rights, Law

The NYT reports that a "major revision" to Army "intelligence-gathering guidelines" includes a change asserting that the Army can wiretap people inside the US if authorized by the attorney general — dropping language referring to such authorization being subject to the FISA court. NYT:

Deep into an updated Army manual, the deletion of 10 words has left some national security experts wondering whether government lawyers are again asserting the executive branch's right to wiretap Americans without a court warrant.

The manual, described by the Army as a "major revision" to intelligence-gathering guidelines, addresses policies and procedures for wiretapping Americans, among other issues.

The original guidelines, from 1984, said the Army could seek to wiretap people inside the United States on an emergency basis by going to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, or by obtaining certification from the attorney general "issued under the authority of section 102(a) of the Act."

That last phrase is missing from the latest manual, which says simply that the Army can seek emergency wiretapping authority pursuant to an order issued by the FISA court "or upon attorney general authorization." It makes no mention of the attorney general doing so under FISA.

Bush administration officials said that the wording change was insignificant, adding that the Army would follow FISA requirements if it sought to wiretap an American.

But the manual's language worries some national security experts. "The administration does not get to make up its own rules," said Steven Aftergood, who runs a project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. [Emphasis added]

If the Army intends to "follow FISA requirements," why bother changing the language?

Posted by Jonathan at January 14, 2007 05:30 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb