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August 23, 2007


McConnell's interview was designed to take the focus off of some deeper issue. When he starts spouting the old standby lines that are obviously written by the WH and have nothing to do with reality, it is a dead giveaway.

My personal belief is that the whole FISA cram-down earlier this month was to add an aura of authorization to what the administration is doing in the name of protecting us from terror -- which is anything they want to do. What defines a "terrorist"? It could be anyone who opposes or disagrees with anything this administration wants, in which case -- they are already here!

If McConnell really were trying to get Pakistan right, would any one be able to tell? That was one of the least articulate explanations of... well, anything, that I've ever read.

These guys should just stick with what they know: "I don't recall."

Kagro X -Remember, they need days and days of training with coaches to even get the "I don't recall" right.

EW and all - As I have admitted many times, I am not that much of a computer type techie; but if they are worried about communication into and out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, can't they scoop it all up there, instead of having to worry about it here?

Why can the government, using their satellites, read the headlines over my shoulder of a paper that I'm reading, but they can't find or track the terrorists in these "FATA" tribal lands? Isn't anybody in this country starting to wonder why?

McConnell makes it sound like that Pakistan/Afghanistan border area story is something new. Wha??

Of a most interesting note:

"So the most important thing to capture is that it's a foreigner in a foreign country, required to get a warrant. Now if it were wireless, we would not be required to get a warrant."
My Bold

Jest so we're real clear here, you folks using all those cellphones here in the US of A, the government can and does listen to them. No warrant is required!

How can that be you say? Folks, cellphones ain't nothing more than radio transmissions. You know, just like the kind you can pick up on that there car radio.

And the NSA, which got its beginning in the early 1950s, was the premier collector and eavesdropper of all the radio spectrum worldwide.

Enter today's NSA with its high-end computing technology, and the combination of almost-lightspeed hardware with highly sophisticated database software, and you got yourself not only a collector of massive amounts of data, but also a one-stop-shop for all other government agencies (Federal, State and Local) for cellphone eavesdropping requests.

Wanna talk on your cellphone about stuff like buying that gram of coke, buying that fully automatic silenced Uzi, or jest talking about how to make a steal on that insider stock trading tip you jest got?

You ain't gonna be the only one listening! And it is totally legal eavesdropping, doncha know?

And you thought the big deal was the government eavesdropping on foreign communications. Ha!

Red herring anyone? I hear it tastes delicious!

Any statement made that yadda yadda ons about the threats to "the homeland" is prima facie propaganda.

I don't live in "the homeland." I live in the United States of America - US is fine, America is fine, "the homeland" is for lying propagandists.

Interesting that McConnell doesn't see something like having Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan wandering around - or, for that matter, the elections leak about Noor Khan - as a problem. BTW - don't they mostly have to use sat phones in those mountain regions?

Mad Dogs, that jumped out at me last night, too, but for a different reason. Satellite communications are wireless -- and there is nothing to prevent the government from monitoring the up-link or down-link. If I am not mistaken, the bulk of foreign data and telephone communications is now done by satellite.

I would also like to know what the definition is for "wire." In the traditional sense, the wire is the metallic conductor over which electrical current flows. Data is transmitted through very low electrical impulses. However, the main transmission media these days is through fibre optic cable, which are not made of metal (although they have one or more metal jackets). So, I have to wonder, does the definition for "wire" include fibre optics?

What I am driving at is that there is very little limitation on what the government can do...

Sojourner - It is my experience that courts treat fiber optic cable as "Wire". Granted, these instances were not NSA type cases, but still, they have been very consistent in that treatment.

Good point EW – sophisticated terrorists are not going to use the telephone or email anymore – if they ever did. If McConnell thinks this is “major”, then he’s right in line with the rest of the dipshit cronies Bush likes to hire.

Hmmmmpf! So, what do the courts know? ;-)

I agree with you that Pakistan needs to get right - disagree on the methods though. Like India, Pakistan is a figment of the British Empire created solely for the sake of expediency in the early 20th century. The division did not consider the historically distinct and independent regions and peoples within Pakistan - thus, like Iraq's Kurds, Pakistan encompasses Waziristan and the fiercely independent minded Baluchistan (whose legendary 80 year old leader was recently assassinated, reportedly with help from U.S. forces) and where Bin Laden is believed to be hiding. The natural enemy of these tribal leaders is Islamabad, not the U.S. By being tied to the assassination of their leaders, and making a deal with the devil who is Musharaff, the U.S. has made enemies of the people in areas like Baluchistan. Therfore they grant Osama asylum. Wanna end the madrasses? Help these oppressed people and those in Kashmir to achieve true independence from Islamabad, then they'll have a lot less to be pissed off about.

I really must emphasize these were mostly not intercept/security/fourth amendment cases. Mostly construction cases I have been involved in or seen. However, I have seen at least one criminal case where tapping of a fiber optic cable was deemed the equivalent of tapping a wire on a motion to suppress determination.


The sat sigint that McConnell admits to is almost certainly the stuff that Russ Tice as talking about. He was always pretty clear that the stuff that was going on with telecom had been going on with satellites for some time (probably back to when McConnell was head of NSA).

So the problem with McConnell is that he is so used to this stuff via satellite that he doesn't see what the problem is with it via telecom lines. And Mad Dog is right--we ought to be concerned about both.

Rather than focussing on the medium of any particular communication (cellphones, emails, letters, smoke signals, whatever), the overriding judicial and legislative determination should be whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy in the communication, of which the chosen medium would be a very important factor, but not necessarily conclusive. For example, if a certain Maine Senator were to make public speeches in the course of an election campaign, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in her remarks, and they would be open to "interception". On the other hand, just because a certain medium can be easily monitored, such as email or cellphone frequencies, and cannot be placed in a sealed envelope should not be a "privacy-free" zone. The beauty of the 4th amendment is that it covers all the possible changes in technology that have occurred since 1787 in the elastic phrase "probable cause". Should not be anything too complicated about it.

I gotta agree with bmaz on the definition of "wire" for eavesdropping purposes. Metal, glass, plastic, whatever. It is all "wire" for the legal community's purposes.

Having worked as a computer geek for almost the last 30 years, and 15 of those as a specialist in computer data communications (yup, that be Networking stuff), copper, fiber, satcomm stuff has long been the unparalleled expertise domain of the US Government, particularly the NSA.

When AT&T was in its original form (not split apart into Baby Bells), the folks at their Bell Labs research entity worked "hand-in-glove" with NSA on communications intercept technology and those Magic Elves at Bell Labs had no peer anywhere in the world.

As to the "leaks" of what's been going on vis a vis FISA stuff, Mikey McConnell ain't even showing us the tip of the iceberg. More like a sliver of ice from same iceberg.

The stuff we don't know about our Intelligence agencies would not only boggle the mind, but quite probably turn your hair grey.

Mad Dogs, my hair is already grey... actually, white!

Ishmael - I think there is a lot to be said for what you said. Man, that is a circular statement isn't it? At any rate, it is not cut and dried that there is no expectation of privacy in cell phone conversations. There was actually a case, in Maryland I think but I am not sure, where someone overhead, by some random glitch, the cell phone conversation containing a nefarious discussion between a couple of political operatives or politicians. The person overhearing it taped it and made it public. The court factored in "reasonable expectation of privacy" into the ruling against the third party that heard and recorded.

Mad Dogs and Sojourner - What hair" I ain't got no stinkin hair left.

Froomkin notices you, EW!

(Officially, my hair is grey. In practice it tends to look blonde.)

Must have been the (brownish reddish, still-plentiful) hair.

Oh, rub it in sister. Thanks a rot!

BMAZ, just console yourself with the thought that you rubbed it all out pulling late nights and writing in-depth analyses about Bush and Cheney and their wrong-doing...

I think the difference between wire and wireless is that wireless uses a very public medium, i.e. is broadcast, while the wire probably belongs to private corporations. You need permission to "trespass" onto the wire. Fiber is equivalent to wire in not being a public broadcast medium. Some dictionary somewhere probably already accepts glass wire as valid English.

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