I don't know how the administration can be expected to successfully fear-monger with articles like this
being written. It's not helpful.
Ever since the Protect America Act lapsed a little more than a week ago, the administration has been emphasizing the grave danger the country is in. Sure, experts
and Democrats say that surveillance of terrorist groups authorized under the lapsed law should continue unabated. But don't listen to them.
The administration delivered what should have been the coup de grÃ¢ce on Friday, when the director of national intelligence informed
Congress that the feared consequence of the law's lapse was already upon us. "We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress' failure to act
," they wrote, underlining the sentence to add that needed emphasis. Telecoms weren't cooperating with wiretap requests out of that "uncertainty." Unfortunately, the troublesome telecom apparently quickly became certain, because those administration officials had to announce that the dark hour was over only "hours later
."The New York Times sheds
some much needed light on the situation this morning. The most crucial revelation is this:
Theoretically, intelligence officials would have to revert to older â and, they say, more cumbersome â legal standards if they were now to stumble onto a new terrorist group that was not covered by a previous wiretapping order. But that has not happened since the surveillance law expired, administration officials said.
This is crucial because the administration's direst warnings have had to do with being unable to wiretap new targets. But apparently the powers granted by the Protect America Act were so sweeping that after a week, the NSA hasn't run into that problem yet.
The apparent "uncertainty" which the administration hyped last week for one telecom had hinged on a legal issue: "whether the government could expand existing wiretapping orders to include new phone numbers or e-mail addresses in surveillance of the same targets covered by the original orders," the Times
reports. That issue has been resolved. And an anonymous "lawyer in the telecommunications industry" tells the Times
that he's "seen little practical effect on the industryâs surveillance operations since the law expired."
BUT that doesn't mean Democrats and Americans should not be afraid: administration officials "emphasized that the uncertainty of the legal landscape threatened to disrupt future operations."
You can be sure that you'll be hearing about every bump on the road until the administration gets its precious
retroactive immunity for the telecoms.