tv Al Jazeera World News LINKTV January 3, 2013 10:30am-11:00am PST
>> the u.s. president allows the government to continue spying on americans and others without a warrant. you are watching "inside story america" from washington. >> hello. the u.s. capitol is preparing for the inauguration of barack obama. it was before his inauguration four years ago that civil liberties groups had high hopes that president obama would do away with laws put in place by
his predecessor that violate u.s. constitutional rights in the name of national security. on sunday, they were disappointed when president obama rhee authorized the foreign intelligence surveillance act 00 re- -- re- authorized the foreign intelligence surveillance act. last week, three u.s. senators tried to amend the legislation to put into protection protections for americans. republicans and democrats came together to reject the proposal in favor of u.s. national security of our constitutional rights. back in our washington, d.c. studios, we are joined by a national security analyst. we also have a legislative counsel for the american civil
liberties union and the executive director of the bill of rights defense committee. before we begin the discussion, i want to play an interview i did a short while ago with a former senior executive at the national security agency. here is his take on what the extension of the fisa amendment act means for u.s. civil liberties. >> a whole series of acts have been passed that have gotten re -authorized without any amendments at all. that particular act is one element of a larger series of activities that the u.s. is engaged in in terms of surveillance. >> is there anything that has taken place or is there anything to justify this level of surveillance and monitoring that is taking place? >> not at all other than for
reasons of counterterrorism and dealing with a threat. that has been the government's mem ever since before -- ever since post-9/11. >> has someone been apprehended before this legislation? >> anybody could have accepted the need to counter the threat. i get that because of what happened in -- on 9/11. the problem is that everything else they are doing is under the rubric of national security. everything from mass of electronic eavesdropping on americans to wiring the electronic infrastructure in this country for mass surveillance to bypassing any number of other laws that have been part of what it means to be an american. it has gone far beyond its original mandate. >> the people who are using
these tools would not taken advantage of that. >> parts of the problem is that much of this is being done in secret. there is very little oversight or accountability. with this latest authorization of the fisa amendment act extending into 2017, the very little debate. the four amendments were put up and they all failed. very little oversight. the executive branch has been given a broad mandate with a compliant congress. >> you worked on the inside. give us an idea of what is happening. >> to my horror, i found out 9/11 was used as an excuse to bridge the fundamental rights
and liberties of americans. we would have to give up some of our liberties. i would never imagine it would swing so far over. >> give us an example of something you saw the really concerned you. >> the single biggest thing that continues to manifest itself is that congress is overreaching. it is stunning what i found out. the white house entered into a secret agreement with the national security agency to bypass the foreign intelligence surveillance act. they would use it to bypass -- to turn the united states of america into a foreign nations for the purpose of dragnet and electronic surveillance in secret.
violating the constitution. i could not stand by and be an eye witness to the subversion of our own constitution when i knew it was never necessary. the best of american ingenuity and -- ingenuity could protect the fourth amendment rights of all americans. >> that was thomas drake speaking with me earlier. sebastian, i want to start with you. the argument is the reason this was re-of the rise is that it will make the united states safer - re-authorized is that it will make the united states safer. >> i am is a prize by the negative reaction. it seems a case of the lady -- i am surprised by the negative
reaction. it seems to be a case of the lady doth protest so much. people who are so adamant about civil liberties. it is not george bush in the white house and it is not republicans controlling the senate. we have an extended something that was already put in place. if you look at the cases in the past of successful al qaeda attacks in the united states, the need to be able to do this is clear. >> it is not a question of politics. it is a question of legality. is in iran to question the content of law and to ask whether it -- is it wrong to question the content of the law and whether or not it is expandable? >> it is -- it was controversial in 2008 and that is why we went up to the last
minute. there was substantial bipartisan concern that this would violate the fourth amendment and people 's privacy. there was an attempt to do some oversight and accountability mechanisms. there are certainly members who will pursue this before 2017 when it comes up again. >> there may be members who will pursue it. this was overwhelmingly supported. there were not a lot of questions. the senators who did try to make some kind of amendments were rejected. >> one area where sebastian and i can agree is that this is a reflection of business as usual in washington. political parties that had been concerned about the same abuses under the bush administration have been shot in silence with the continuation of those abuses by the obama administration. it is a reflection of the institutional culture of
washington referring to the national security establishment and holding the constitution in this stain. -- disdain. >> senator ron riden -- widen proposed an amendment that would limit searches of u.s. citizens. a secret court-certified government privacy protections. just 37 senators supported that amendment. an amendment by patrick leahy would have read -- required a reauthorization of every five years. senator paul put forth an amendment that would have required individual search warrants for certain --
why isn't anyone concerned about the content of this legislation? what efforts were to try to put into place, they failed. theet's think about reverse instance. is it safe? does it make sense for america, for the congress, for the legislation to say that if there are international communications occurring that are linked to potential terrorist activity, if there is an american on one end of that conversation, we are not allowed to listen to it unless we get case by case warrants. that is absurd in the age of the internet. that would make the work of those trying to protect american citizens absolutely impossible. if you put the reverse situation into play, it is
clear. we have to have this capability. >> that is the purpose of this information gathering. correct me if i am wrong, anytime there is an attempt to question that, this is a state secret, it is in the interest of national security and we cannot tell you that. >> the word that was used was abuses. let's see those abuses. do we have any concrete cure -- proof of abuses? potentially, yes. the question of declassifying fisa court findings, i see that as simply a good idea. i do not know why that did not succeed. the idea that you need a warrant for every e-mail is not doable. >> at least the widen and the merkley proposals were meager.
three years as opposed to five to reveal the secrets to the american public. how many americans have been impacted by this dragnet or this wiretapping? it would be interesting for a body to know. we cannot have any degree of assurance. the director of national intelligence has admitted before congress that the nsa has violated the fisa statute. so far, nobody has any answers. the idea that congress will likely agency a blank check for another five years for warrantless surveillance is preposterous theory if any of us did our jobs as well as congress, we would be out on the street. >> let's listen to dianne feinstein. a california since she says she needs to defend the reauthorization of the act.
she says it does not apply to americans and there is already a system of checks and balances in place. >> can the government use section 702 to target a united states person? the answer to that is no. the law specifically prohibits the use of 7022 direct collection against -- that means targets -- 702 to direct collection or against our target u.s. persons. surveillance authorities may not be used to intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the united states or to intentionally target a united states person reasonably believed to be located outside of the united states.
if the government wants to engage in electronic surveillance targeting a united states person for foreign intelligence purposes, it must go back to a fisa court and it must get a specific order from that court. >> senator dianne feinstein speaking. she has given the assurance that americans should not be concerned. >> there are semantics' going on here. when they say no americans are being targeted, they say they will not go through their phone or e-mail accounts. they still scoop up everything without targeting anyone in this specific. the government is still getting their communications and their records regardless. that is a semantic justification and does not answer the question. they promise us there are secret
rules that protect our privacy. that is just not how the u.s. government in an open democracy should operate. these things need to be brought to life. >> why would it be on reasonable soon -- to suggest a government identified a -- on reasonable -- unreasonable to suggest a government identify a target? >> the idea that we inject that organization into the operational surveillance -- i am moving to switzerland. this would not be a safe country. everyday, you would have to take hundreds if not thousands potential target names to congress to have them say yay or nay. >> no one suggests they take them to congress. that is what courts are for.
>> we have something that is created by those so created -- concerned by civil liberties. >> the recent amendments extend the revision of the law to prevent what the original law was passed to prohibit. >> if congress wanted to do something about this, there is nothing to stop them from doing it in camera. the idea that we are going to say john smith of idaho is of interest to us and have a hearing about whether or not we can wiretap him -- >> nobody is asking congress to look at names to wiretap. they are asking questions. people on the intelligence committee are tasked with the oversight of protecting us. how many americans are picked up? what do you do with the information was you have it? >> these are questions and protections that senator wyden
was talking about. he is a member of the senator -- of the senate intelligence committee. >> the fisa court has already ruled that selection carried out by the government violated the fourth amendment to the constitution. senate rules regarding classified information and prevent me from discussing the details of the ruling or how many americans were affected over what period of time. but this fact alone clearly demonstrates the impact of this law on americans' privacy has been real and it is not hypothetical. it may seem hard to believe, but the court's rulings that interpret major surveillance law and the u.s. constitution in significant ways -- these were
important judgments and the public has no idea what the court is actually saying. what it means is that our country is developing a secret body of law so that most americans have no way of finding out how their laws and the constitution is being interpreted. >> senator wyden speaking. is that compatible with democracy? >> absolutely not. you cannot have secrets locked in a country that claims to be free. other issues with respect to the -- warrentless dragnet. no one knows how many dollars the nsa squanders.
those elements of secrecy alone should be enough to disqualify this law or ask the executive branch to answer this question. no one in the bush administration or the obama administration has assets. this concerns the rights of americans and the pocketbooks of americans. >> why is there not more outrage? >> i cannot speak for the people. the fourth amendment, the issue of protection against warrantless searches -- how was that written? with what in tents. none of the legislation -- with what intent? warrentless searches, that is the concept for which the fourth amendment was created. >> for their non-state actors in
sleeper cells in 52 nations of the world, meaning al qaeda? the most successful mass sincelty vinson's 9/11 -- 9/11, the ft. hood shooting was under the influence of a man in yemen. are we saying we will stop intercepting communications? >> that is not the issue. the issue is whether or not there has to be checks and balances. no one is saying in a kind of surveillance is off of the table. the question is whether or not there is card launch -- carte
blanch to do it. >> a judicial function in court has to give a yay or nay. having an open court decide whether or not a person can be under surveillance. >> when the director of national intelligence said there has been a violation of law, how many americans have been impacted? >> when are they going to report them? >> one other report -- point we might want to consider is that there never has been any evidence given to justify this level of secrecy or this level of removal of rights and freedoms that have been constitutionally protected. >> this is important for our national security. there is no publicly available information. this has been in place since right after 9/11 in some form. it collected information that
was not attainable through other tools that has checks and balances like individualized court review or probable cause or a subpoena. there really is no evidence to believe this is working at it is worth the tradeoff. not that there were exceptions for really important programs. >> is this something the supreme court should take up? >> we have challenged the program. we are still fighting as to whether or not we have standing to sue. the obama administration says if we cannot prove our clients have been spied on, they cannot have the court review their case. we argued before the supreme court in october that lawyers and other advocates that had a reason to believe they had spied on because they were in conflict zones in the middle east and other areas targeted by this program had a reasonably that
they were being spied on and they should be able to seek recourse in court. >> is this the point where some of the other things have been called into question when it comes to privacy and civil liberty? is it time to take a look at that at the supreme court level? >> the supreme court has written itself out of the equation. the courts have been rendered ineffective as a check on executive abuses. the secretive fisa court has ruled that the nsa has violated the law. i do not think checks and balances can come from our courts. congress is failing its job. the checks and balances have to come from the american people. the outrage has to come from
president obama approving ment.inite detain president obama only extended the assault on the constitution began by his predecessor. >> sebastian, if there are not concerned about the way this is seen, why can it be more transparent? >> there are people concerned about this. in national security, there is a limit to what can be done in plain sight. how big is the budget? there are a handful of countries that publish their intelligence budgets. you do not publish your intelligence budget. you ask the question is there evidence that this is required?