Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pfft Redux

A Response from Congressman Charles W. Boustany, Jr., M.D. From: "Congressman Charles W. Boustany, Jr., M.D." Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2006 16:03:28 -0500 To: Me Dear Greg: Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts regarding the recent disclosure of telephone intercepts by the National Security Agency (NSA). It is good to hear from you on this important issue. As you may know, in response to unauthorized disclosures in the news media, President Bush has acknowledged certain activities of the NSA that he has authorized since shortly after September 11, 2001. As detailed by the President, the NSA intercepts certain international communications into and out of the United States of people linked to al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization. The purpose of these intercepts is to establish an early warning system to detect and prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States. It is important to note that the President's directive does not mean that intelligence agencies can spy on ordinary American citizens without a warrant. The NSA must meet two conditions prior to action on this directive. First, they must have information that establishes a clear link to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations; and second, the communication must be international. Unless a U.S. citizen is an associate of al Qaeda or talking to a member or associate of al Qaeda in a foreign country, they will not be impacted by this program. As an additional safeguard, the process is routinely reviewed by lawyers in the Justice Department and by the Attorney General. The President himself reviews and reauthorizes the program every 45 days, with renewals based on fresh Intelligence Community assessments and reviews of previous activity under the authorization. In an age in which we face determined enemies that continue to resort to using unorthodox methods of war, the United States has had to take resolute measures to protect our homeland and ensure our national security. The President and the U.S. government not only has a right, but an obligation to monitor people with known al Qaeda ties to ensure they do not have a chance to engage in terrorist activities. Additionally, the courts have consistently recognized the inherent constitutional authority of the President to conduct warrantless searches to protect the National security. In the 2004 case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Congress gave the President authority to act against Al Qaeda, even where authorization is not specific and may be contrary to another statute. President's of both parties have consistently asserted constitutional authority to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance. In a statement to the House Intelligence Committee in 1994, President Clinton's Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick stated that "the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes." A common misunderstanding about this program is that it has been hidden from other branches of our government. I would note that congressional leaders and the House and Senate intelligence committees were all briefed on a bipartisan basis more than a dozens times regarding this program. This is consistent with well-established law and practice for reporting sensitive national security matters to Congress, particularly those dealing with intelligence sources and methods. Members of Congress who had objections to the program could have gone directly to the President or the Speaker of the House to press their objections, or sought to take appropriate action in authorizing legislation. What particularly troubles me about this story is the illegal disclosure of classified information to the news media. We must protect vital information from our enemies, especially that which pertains to our information sources, methods, and allies. Leaks of classified programs only serve to help terrorists and our enemies. I am pleased to hear that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has already initiated an investigation of certain unauthorized disclosures and their possible consequences. One of my top priorities in Congress is to protect our homeland and ensure our national security. As Congress considers these issues, I will certainly continue to keep your concerns in mind. Again, thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact me again about this or any other issue of importance to you and your family. Sincerely, Charles W. Boustany, Jr., M.D. Member of Congress Well, gosh, that's good enough for me! Wait, did I forget to close the <sarcasm> tag?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how does the NSA justify spying on a Quaker connected US peace group?


1/10/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Oh, well, if the wiretaps were reviewed by White House lawyers, well then, I guess that's good enough for me!

Charles Boustany has drunk the koolaid.

1/10/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

"First, they must have information that establishes a clear link to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations;"

They attacked Iraq without proving this! How are we supposed to rest assured that they would bother to clear this for ordinary citizens?

1/10/2006 08:20:00 PM  

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