Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush was against it while he was for it 

The only explanation I can think of for the bizarre position is that Bush has been up to no good. From the WaPo,

The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.

The proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) would have allowed the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants for non-U.S. citizens if they had a "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism -- a lower standard than the "probable cause" requirement in the statute that governs the warrants.

... The wiretapping program, ordered by President Bush in 2001, is used when intelligence agents have a "reasonable basis to believe" that a target is tied to al Qaeda or related groups, according to recent statements by administration officials.

... During Senate debate over DeWine's amendment in July 2002, James A. Baker, the Justice Department's counsel for intelligence policy, said in a statement that the Bush administration did not support the proposal "because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues."

Baker said it was "not clear cut" whether the proposal would "pass constitutional muster," and "we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions" if the amendment was later struck down by the courts. He also said Justice had been using FISA aggressively and played down the notion that the probable cause standard was too high.

Blogger Glen Greenwald broke this aspect of the story a few days ago - he has more excerpts from Baker's statement.

Think Progress on the WH's response, and Gen. Hayden's lie to Congress.

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After pondering this a few days, I can only surmise that the legal minds decided that the terms "reasonable suspicion" and "probable cause" are so subjective that they didn't need to actually change the laws. But that if any questions arose, it would be up to those who wish to prosecute it to argue that the circumstances do not reach the ambiguous standard.


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