Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When the rubber-stamp stops stamping...

Why did the Bush Administration decide to ignore US law and engage in widespread wiretapping of US citizens? Today, another piece of the puzzle slots into place: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which grants warrants for surveillance of foreign agents within the United States, had stopped being such a rubber stamp. In its first 22 years of operation, it had approved 13,102 applications, and modified only 2. But since 2001,

the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for court-ordered surveillance by the Bush administration. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004 -- the most recent years for which public records are available.

The judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejection[s] in the court's history.

Basically, Bush didn't get exactly what he wanted from the law, so he chose to ignore it. But given the deference to national security by the court and demonstrated low standards required for such warrants - no rejections in 22 years; all the government has to do is show probable cause that the target is a foreign agent or terrorist who may be violating US law - you really have to wonder how outrageous and egregious those rejected and modified applications were.

(Hat tip: Daily Kos).