July 30, 2007
|All About The Data-Mining After All||9/11, "War On Terror" Black Ops Politics|
As has been pointed out here at PastPeak a number of times, the whole FISA warrant/wiretapping story was really about a whole lot more than wiretapping: the collection and data-mining of massive databases tracking Americans' phone calls, emails, financial transactions, etc., etc. The NYT reported Saturday that it was this data-mining that was the real story behind the contention between Congress and the White House (and within the Justice Department iself) on the FISA warrants. Pretty much like we've said all along. NYT:
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
The NSA's data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.
The confrontation in 2004 led to a showdown in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, where Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, tried to get the ailing Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the NSA program.
Mr. Gonzales insisted before the Senate this week that the 2004 dispute did not involve the Terrorist Surveillance Program "confirmed" by President Bush, who has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants but has never acknowledged the data mining.
If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.
But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who have been briefed on the program, called the testimony deceptive.
"I've had the opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here, and I believe that his testimony was misleading at best," said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, joining three other Democrats in calling Thursday for a perjury investigation of Mr. Gonzales.
"This has gone on long enough," Mr. Feingold said. "It is time for a special counsel to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought."
The senators' comments, along with those of other members of Congress briefed on the program, suggested that they considered the eavesdropping and data mining so closely tied that they were part of a single program. Both activities, which ordinarily require warrants, were started without court approval as the Bush administration intensified counterterrorism efforts soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. [Emphasis added]
So Gonzales has been denying the dispute was about eavesdropping — because it really was about something that was much more serious. I guess it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.