OPEN SECRETS

I’d been meaning to reply to an exceedingly silly PowerLine post that strained to bolster Bush’s claim that, somehow, national security was compromised by the revelation that the NSA was eavesdropping on them without warrants as well as with them. (As Frank Rich points out today, behind the Times‘ irrelevancy firewall, the Showtime drama Sleeper Cell beat the New York Times to the punch on this anyway.)

Fortunately, Glenn Greenwald has a quite thorough response posted already, so I can just reiterate the highlights:

  • The notion that Osama bin Laden stopped using his sat phone because press accounts tipped him off that we could track it is probably bogus.
  • The claim that it’s “extremely unlikely” that al-Qaeda terrorists were aware of FISA until now because “few Americans knew anything about FISA before the current controversy arose” is, well, mindboggling. I guess it could be that they only just started reading the New York Times, but even ignoring the fact that FISA’s been prominently discussed in the news since the early debates on the Patriot Act, it seems as though hardened terrorist might, you know, have somewhat more of a personal incentive to learn about American wiretap policy than the average Joe. Bush apologists need to make up their minds: Are these guys such a fiendishly clever and unique threat that they require massive expansion of executive power to defend against, or are they some sort of darkside Qeystone Qops so inept that disclosing the obvious gives them new information?
  • It’s similarly hard to imagine that terrorists had been previously counting on the by now hyper-debunked assumption that “it would take days, weeks or months to obtain a FISA order.” If they were minimally attentive, they’d know that FISA allows law enforcement to initiate a tap immediately and then submit a retroactive request for authorization up to three days later.

—posted by Julian

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