Homeland Security

  No Investigation of Wiretap Programs Because of Security?May 30, 2006 15:25 The US administration has asked a pair of federal judges to dismiss legal challenges to its domestic eavesdropping programme, arguing any court action in the cases would jeopardise secrets in the “war on terrorism”.

The group that brought the case against the state said the move eroded the system of checks and balances at the root of any democracy.

Filed just before a deadline of midnight on Saturday, and only partly made public, the arguments by the US justice department marked the latest battle over a National Security Agency programme to listen in on international communications involving Americans.

President George Bush said in December he had authorised the eavesdropping without a court order shortly after the September 11 attacks in order to track suspected communication from al-Qaeda operatives.

  Guard Heads To Border In JuneMay 21, 2006 22:35 About 300 Arizona National Guard troops will be sent to the state's porous southern border in June as the first tangible step in President Bush's controversial plan to beef up border security throughout the Southwest.

The Guard units, which will do two- and three-week rotations, could be deployed as early as the first week of June to fill a supporting role while the federal government recruits and trains Border Patrol agents over the next two years. By the end of June, Guard units from other states should be working at the Arizona-Mexico border as part of Bush's $1.9 billion crackdown on illegal immigration. The specific details of the Guard's mission at the border are still being finalized.

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano said Arizona is ready for deployments after months of preparation. In addition to assisting Border Patrol agents, Napolitano said, the Guard can focus on the increasing drug trade that has wreaked havoc on Arizona families.

  Hayden Insists NSA Surveillance Is LegalMay 18, 2006 17:21 CIA nominee Gen. Michael Hayden insisted on Thursday that the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program was legal and that it was designed to ensnare terrorists _ not spy on ordinary people.

"Clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern constantly," the four-star Air Force general told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing. "We always balance privacy and security."

Hayden was peppered by as many questions about the National Security Agency, the super-secret agency that he headed from 1999-2005, as about his visions for the CIA.

Senators grilled him on the NSA's eavesdropping without warrants on conversations and e-mails believed by the government to involve terrorism suspects, and reports of the tracking of millions of phone calls made and received by ordinary Americans.

  NSA Spying = Star Wars?May 18, 2006 03:30 The government is listening in on this or that call, combing through telephone records, tracking Emails and other transactions, instantly detecting anomalies and patterns in communications, building enemies lists.

I spoke to a friend in the business yesterday, a retired military intelligence officer who works at some beltway corporation that contracts big time with NSA.

He cautions that I shouldn't get ahead of themselves worrying about an all-seeing government and a seamless surveillance culture. Billions are being secretly spent annually for software development, network infrastructure, database management, etc., to build a dreamed for system that will be able to autonomously connect the dots and detect terrorists before they strike. But a seamless system, my always reliable and level headed friend assures, is still far away.

So that got me thinking: a fantastic system costing billions of dollars roping in scores of companies butting up against orthodoxy and even legality with the dreamed for end result of autonomous and perfect defense.

Data mining is the Bush administration's Star Wars.

  370 Mile 3-Layer Fence Voted In By SenateMay 18, 2006 03:27 Heeding conservative demands to shore up the southern U.S. border to prevent illegal immigrants from freely crossing into the country, the Senate voted Wednesday to build 370 miles of triple-layered fence

Senators voted 83-16 to add fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the southern border.

Construction of the barrier would send "a signal that open-border days are over. ... Good fences make good neighbors, fences don't make bad neighbors," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. He said border areas where barriers already exist have experienced economic improvement and reduced crime.

"What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American politics," countered Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. If made law, "our relationship with Mexico would come down to a barrier between our two countries."

  Working The Phones: War On Terror Must Respect The ConstitutionMay 15, 2006 14:58 In order to enforce the law, one has to respect the law. Making it up as you go along doesn't count.
Yet the Bush administration is clearly making up its own rules for what it is allowed to do in its search for terrorists.
That approach defends neither the Constitution the president is sworn to uphold nor the people who look to him for safety, both from terrorists and from unwarranted government intrusion in their lives. In fact, this method threatens to place the unchecked power of the presidency above the Constitution itself.
The president's own explanations of what is going on have been tersely amended whenever the press dutifully ferrets out another of his secret programs.
First, we were assured that government security agencies were not listening in on anyone's phone conversations without a proper court order. Then, when the truth leaked in The New York Times, it was admitted that the National Security Agency was doing exactly that. But only, officials claimed, when one end of the conversation was in another country and participants were firmly tied to al-Qaida.
Then USA Today reported that the NSA had also accumulated what could be the largest data base in global history - records of all the phone calls made by all the customers of the nation's three biggest telephone carriers.
  News Analysis: Is Bush Overreaching?May 14, 2006 05:32 President Bush has made broad use of his executive powers: authorizing warrantless wiretaps, collecting telephone records on millions of Americans, holding suspected terrorists overseas without legal protections. His administration even is considering using the military to patrol the U.S. border.

These are extraordinary times, for sure, and the president says he is acting to safeguard the country. But Democrats and some Republicans, along with human rights activists and legal scholars, suggest Bush has gone too far in stretching presidential powers.

Bush is using a variety of techniques and strategies to maximize his power — at the expense of Congress, some say. It‘s a course, critics suggest, that both he and Vice President Dick Cheney have pursued since they took office in January 2001.

  Pentagon Faults Report Questioning Veterans' Mental Health CareMay 13, 2006 21:10 The Pentagon's top medical officer yesterday contested the conclusions of a Government Accountability Office report that questioned whether service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting appropriate mental health care.

Although the report said only 22 percent of service members identified as at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a post-deployment questionnaire were referred for a mental health examination, that did not account for troops who were referred to primary care physicians or other treatment providers for mental health care, said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

  Effort To Confirm Cia Nominee Hits SnagMay 12, 2006 17:40 A report on extensive government collection of Americans' phone data roiled Congress on Thursday, with many Republicans rallying to the president's defense while one key GOP chairman and many Democrats called for hearings, new restrictions and the possible subpoenaing of telephone executives.

The report in USA Today heaped fuel on a smoldering debate over privacy rights versus anti-terrorism tactics. It also threatened to complicate White House efforts to win Senate confirmation of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director.

"I believe we are on our way to a major constitutional confrontation on Fourth Amendment guarantees of unreasonable search and seizure," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the intelligence and judiciary committees. "I think this is also going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of General Hayden, and that is very regretted."

Several of her colleagues predicted Hayden will be confirmed, but activists in both parties said the politics of aggressive surveillance are uncertain. Republicans, however, first must address a division in their own ranks.

  Nsa Call Tracking Starts FurorMay 12, 2006 15:27 A new spying controversy erupted Thursday as lawmakers from both parties expressed alarm over a news report that the National Security Agency has been secretly tracking phone calls of millions of Americans.

Senators called news conferences and appeared on television to raise questions about why the NSA is building a huge database of the phone-dialing habits of tens of millions of Americans, using information provided by AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp.
USA Today, citing anonymous sources familiar with the arrangement, said the spy agency uses the phone records to look for calling patterns that might indicate terrorist activity.

Lawmakers demanded answers about the program and said they were concerned it might be an unwarranted intrusion on personal privacy.

  Illegal Wiretapping Doesn't Infringe?May 11, 2006 19:56 President George W. Bush said the government isn't "trolling" the private lives of Americans, as members of Congress demanded answers about a report that a U.S. intelligence agency is collecting millions of telephone records.

"The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," Bush said today of operations to gather information about terrorists. "We're not mining or trolling though the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

Bush made the unscheduled remarks after USA Today reported that AT&T Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. secretly provided the phone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency. The agency, which collects and interprets electronic intelligence, has compiled a massive database with the information to detect patterns related to terrorist activity, the newspaper reported.

Bush didn't directly address the phone record collections, saying there are "new claims about other ways we are tracking down al-Qaeda." He said NSA programs are "lawful" and that members of Congress have been briefed on the program.

  NSA illegally collecting 'tens of millions' of phone recordsMay 11, 2006 14:32
"The phone call records of tens of millions of Americans" have been secretly collected by the National Security Agency since President Bush authorized the so-called warrantless eavesdropping program after the 9/11 attacks, USA TODAY is reporting.

Citing "people with direct knowledge of the arrangement," the newspaper reports that the program "is far more expansive than what the White House has (previously) acknowledged." It has also been conducted, USA TODAY writes, with cooperation from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. (Q&A on the NSA program here.)

The story builds on reporting that began last Dec. 15, when The New York Times wrote that "months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying." Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won Pulitzers prizes for their work on the story. (Story here for Times Select subscribers.)

That report was followed by stories in several other media.

  Quotes: Reaction To Cia AnnouncementMay 08, 2006 17:10 Statements in response to President Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  Faq: How Real Id Will Affect YouMay 06, 2006 07:55 What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about?

President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable, federally approved ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.

What does that mean for me?

Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.
  CIA Director Porter Goss ResignsMay 05, 2006 20:05 President George W. Bush announced Friday that Porter J. Goss, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has resigned after serving 20 months in that post. Bush has yet to name a successor, The Associated Press reports.


characterized Goss' tenure as one of transition, and said that the director "has led ably," and already has a "five-year plan to increase the analysts and operatives" in place. The president also said that Goss, a former congressman who represented Florida's 14th District for more than 15 years and co-chaired the joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had "helped make this country a safer place." "I would like to report to you that the [CIA] is back on a very even keel and sailing well," Goss told reporters. His resignation is the second in less than a month by a member of Bush's administration following a shakeup of the president's team.

Ed: We can't help but wonder if this news isn't related to ongoing corruption investigations that may involve Goss. House cleaning... but perhaps a little too late.

  Prof. Gets 18 Months More In Terror CaseMay 01, 2006 20:13 A judge sentenced former professor Sami Al-Arian on Monday to another year and a half in prison before he will be deported in his terrorism conspiracy case.

Al-Arian, 48, was sentenced to four years and nine months, but he will get credit for the three years and three months he already has served while being held before and after his trial.

His lawyer, Linda Moreno, asked the judge to release her client now, but the judge refused and called Al-Arian "a master manipulator."