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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The sun won't be setting on warrantless wiretapping any time soon.

Yeah, I know that the 'Protect America Act' (PAA) passed by Congress a few days ago contains a provision that sunsets the law in six months. Unfortunately, the law was crafted by the White House, and you know they'd never give up the right to spy on  victims  citizens so easily.

Constitutional scholar Marty Lederman points out a little-noticed provision of the law that shouldn't surprise any of us:

Although section 6(c) provides that the operative provisions of the Act "shall cease to have effect 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act," i.e., on February 1, 2008, there is an express exception in section 6(d), which reads as follows:
AUTHORIZATIONS IN EFFECT.—Authorizations for the acquisition of foreign intelligence information pursuant to the amendments made by this Act, and directives issued pursuant to such authorizations, shall remain in effect until their expiration. Such acquisitions shall be governed by the applicable provisions of such amendments and shall not be deemed to constitute electronic surveillance as that term is defined in section 101(f) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801(f)).

Thus, "acquisitions" authorized by Attorney General Gonzales will be permissible for one year, even if that period extends beyond the ostensible February 1, 2008 sunset date. I think it's fair to assume that the Attorney General will authorize a system of such acquisitions on or close to February 1, 2008, which will mean that the warrantless surveillance can continue until . . . February 1, 2009, or twelve days after the next President is sworn in.

That's right. Dubya and Attorney General Gonzales didn't get a six-month window in which to spy on everyone and everything—the PAA gives them 18 months. If you (like this mapgie) was worried about all the backdoors that the feds could order installed over the next six months at internet providers, telecommunications networks, and search engines, just think about the permanent spying infrastructure that Dubya's regime will be able to get up and running in 18 months.

And while Congress could decide to pass a law preventing Gonzales from extending warrantless wiretapping until 2009, the cowardice that some Democrats showed when they aided the passage of the 'Protect America Act' speaks volumes about the likelihood that Congress will suddenly grow a spine and start protecting the Constitution.

Via Balkinization.

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