“Whatever somebody might need. Let’s say that ….

Bunnypants or the no-cattle cowboy is reviving an old western custom, whereby you run off a new land squatter by poisoning the well. Turned out this isn’t a good idea since wells are part of underground lakes. If ya poison the other guys water source, you’re probably poisoning yours as well….GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE BAD NEWS.

The reason is that the illegality of the unlawful operations winds up poisoning the operations of the normal legal process, as we’re seeing today, rendering it increasingly ineffective and forcing more and more things to be pushed into the “off the books” illegal side of our policy. You can’t, in the long-term, suspend due process and normal legal procedures “just a little.” Once you reach a critical mass of outside-the-law activities, their scope will keep on expanding unless you reach a point where you’re prepared to disavow them entirely.

So, in a hurry to poison the well and get those nasty folks next door, only, what if at least some of those folks ain’t exactly angels, but they’re not rag headed evil doers either. Then you’ve got two kettles of trouble. One is the dirty angels, the average American sinner have been sullied even more and the giant hand of big gov’ment is liable. Two, the tin badges have been wearing down some shoe leather and pull’n some all nighters listening on some taps that Bunnypants says are legal. The tin badge has 10 years toward a pension and a kid that needs braces, so he’she says what the hell, I’m playing by the rules and manages after a few months to put some gonernment issue bracelets on some real bad guys, only we can’t use a good part of the evidence because Bunnypants was talk’n outa his a*s about not needing a warrant for the domestic spying. – Secret court modified wiretap requests

To win a court-approved wiretap, the government must show “probable cause” that the target of the surveillance is a member of a foreign terrorist organization or foreign power and is engaged in activities that “may” involve a violation of criminal law.

Faced with that standard, Bamford said, the Bush administration had difficulty obtaining FISA court-approved wiretaps on dozens of people within the United States who were communicating with targeted al-Qaida suspects inside the United States.

A commenter over at the ACSBlog seems to have a handle on the situation – Joseph Onek on Domestic Surveillance – commenter Reichstag Burning :

1. As far as the “domestic” versus “foreign” distinction is made, I believe that the central issue is that US citizens/residents, while present in the US and subject to both the restrictions of US laws and the protections of its constitution, are being subjected to surveillance without a lawful warrant or other court-supervised order, in contravention of express statute. Whether they are communicating with another US person or a foreign national is immaterial to whether they are protected by the constitution. They are so protected.

2. The relationship of the FISA statute to case law appears to be that case law was controlling before FISA was enacted, but is now mooted and replaced by the procedures of the statute. Karlson’s comment appears to be a red herring.

3. The critical difference between Clinton’s transgression and Bush’s apparent felony is that lying about a personal matter to avoid an embarrasing disclosure is essentially a non-event in terms of the operation of government. No congressional or judicial turf was trespassed. No presidential power was mis-directed to the detriment of the nation. On the other hand, what Bush is doing is aggressively promoting a re-alignment of the structure of the federal government to place the executive in a position superior to congress and the courts. This strikes at the heart of our democratic system. It paves a path to autocracy and the breakdown of the rule of law.

You may fairly ask how I could conclude that Bush has such an agenda. The proof is in his public statement. He stated first that he had authorized the warrantless wiretaps more than 30 times; and he stated his intent to be fighting terrorists and concealing his actions in order to not tip his hand to the enemy. So far, so good.

What he said after that was the smoking gun. He did NOT say words to the effect that he violated the law only to protect Americans, and that now that the operation was public knowledge, he would directly ask congress to revise FISA to enable him to continue his efforts lawfully.

What he actually said was that he intended to continue on the same path, authorizing illegal wiretaps. That simple statement on his part betrayed two things about his motivations: First, that he has no regard for the legislative branch of government, or its role in the national system. Second, he views the executive as inherently free of legal (or constitutional) restraints. In short, he is in defiance of the rule law as much as any common street criminal would be. His view of himself must be megalomanic, I think.

Well worth a read to put in perspective who is being watched, how and why, and the threats or nonthreats they represent. – Surveillance vs Civil Liberties

There are three groups who are traditionally “of interest” to security operations. They are known political or social activist groups, foreign security and political operations, and unknown activists.

“I don’t know , Easy” He shrugged his great white shoulders.
“Whatever somebody might need. Let’s say that you need to get a
message to someone but it’s not, um, convenient for you to do it
in person; well, then you call me and I take the job. You see I always do the job I’m asked to do, everybody knows that, so I always have lots of work.And sometimes I need a little helper to get the job done. That’s where you come in.” – Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries)
by Walter Mosley