AMENDING FISA….Here’s another point related to General Hayden’s admission today that the NSA’s domestic spying program isn’t some kind of dazzling high tech black op, but merely garden variety wiretapping that was done outside normal FISA channels because NSA couldn’t meet the “probable cause” standard normally needed to get a warrant issued.
Administration apologists have argued that the White House couldn’t seek congressional approval for this program because it utilized super advanced technology that we couldn’t risk exposing to al-Qaeda. Even in secret session, they’ve suggested, Congress is a sieve and the bad guys would have found out what we were up to.
But now we know that’s not true. This was just ordinary call monitoring, according to General Hayden, and the only problem was that both FISA and the attorney general required a standard of evidence they couldn’t meet before issuing a warrant. In other words, the only change necessary to make this program legal was an amendment to FISA modifying the circumstances necessary to issue certain kinds of warrants. This would have tipped off terrorists to nothing.
So why didn’t they ask Congress for that change? It certainly would have passed easily. The Patriot Act passed 99-1, after all. Hell, based on what I know about the program, I probably would have voted to approve it as long as it had some reasonable boundaries.
So there must be more to this. But what?