Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NSA International Wiretaps: Hayden slam-dunks the Mediacrats

The invaluable Powerline informs us of the definitive interview relating to the legality of the NSA's international wiretaps. Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency, spoke at the National Press Club and also entertained questions from a bevy of mediacrats (and a few others).

And, no, you won't see any of this detail reported in your daily newspaper. I know, I just checked a few online. The money question and answer:

QUESTION: General Hayden, the FISA law says that the NSA can do intercepts as long as you go to the court within 72 hours to get a warrant.

I understood you to say that you are aggressively using FISA but selectively doing so. Why are you not able to go to FISA as the law requires in all cases? And if the law is outdated, why haven't you asked Congress to update it? [Ed: Note how the journalists immediately encapsulate the Democrats' critique of the NSA program in their questions.]

GEN. HAYDEN: Lots of questions contained there. Let me try them one at a time. First of all, I need to get a statement of fact out here, all right? NSA cannot -- under the FISA statute, NSA cannot put someone on coverage and go ahead and play for 72 hours while it gets a note saying it was okay. All right? The attorney general is the one who approves emergency FISA coverage, and the attorney general's standard for approving FISA coverage is a body of evidence equal to that which he would present to the court. So it's not like you can throw it on for 72 hours.

In the instances where this program applies, FISA does not give us the operational effect that the authorities that the president has given us give us. Look. I can't -- and I understand it's going to be an incomplete answer, and I can't give you all the fine print as to why, but let me just kind of reverse the answer just a bit. If FISA worked just as well, why wouldn't I use FISA? To save typing? No. There is an operational impact here, and I have two paths in front of me, both of them lawful, one FISA, one the presidential -- the president's authorization. And we go down this path because our operational judgment is it is much more effective. So we do it for that reason...

Go ye and read of it, for it is good.

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