Gonzales’s Tortured Logic on NSA Surveillance
Attorney General Gozales brought out some new arguments in defense of the warrantless NSA surveillance program. He should have kept these arguments in the bag, as they are flatly wrong. For example, according to the AP:
Gonzales told his audience: “You may have heard about the provision of FISA that allows the president to conduct warrantless surveillance for 15 days following a declaration of war. That provision shows that Congress knew that warrantless surveillance would be essential in wartime.”
Indeed, FISA authroizes electronic surveillance more generally “for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.” 50 U.S.C. § 1811. But how does this justify warrantless surveillance that continued far beyond 15 days and that continues to this day? Notwithstanding whether the Authorization to Use Military Force is the equivalent to a declaration of war, this FISA provision indicates that FISA explicitly contemplated the situation the President faced and established a rule — he could engage in warrantless surveillance for 15 days. I have yet to understand how a provision that allows the President to engage in warrantless surveillance for 15 days can be used to justify indefinite warrantless surveillance. Give ’em a nickel, and they take a
dime dollar unlimited amount.
Here’s another gem:
The reasonable basis standard, said Gonzales, “is essentially the same as the traditional Fourth Amendment probable cause standard.”
Nope. The standard is entirely different. The reasonable basis standard is far lower than probable cause. This is not some esoteric fact about Fourth Amendment law, but it is basic knowledge of the law that Gonzales should know.