Monday, December 19, 2005

York on FISA

Byron York says that Bush routed around the special FISA court for wiretap approvals because the process is so unwieldy and cumbersome, it delays and prevents investigations.
In 2002, when the president made his decision, there was widespread, bipartisan frustration with the slowness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy involved in seeking warrants from the special intelligence court, known as the FISA court. Even later, after the provisions of the Patriot Act had had time to take effect, there were still problems with the FISA court — problems examined by members of the September 11 Commission — and questions about whether the court can deal effectively with the fastest-changing cases in the war on terror.

People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. "It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together," says one source. "It's not so much that the court doesn't grant them quickly, it's that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it's still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check." And even though the attorney general has the authority in some cases to undertake surveillance immediately, and then seek an emergency warrant, that process is just as cumbersome as the normal way of doing things

If this is true, then it may explain why the route-around. The best argument the scandal-mongers have come up with thus far is that Bush could have placed taps and then sought approval afterwards; if that would still have required days or weeks of application preparation, then that argument loses its force.

1 comment:

mythago said...

In other words, we should ignore the law because the intelligence agencies are too bureaucratic to bother following it?