"Administration approved" talking points on NSA warrantless spying

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 04:50 PM

Raw Story has acquired an "Administration approved, unclassified talking points" memo sent out from Alonzo Robertson, of NSA's General Counsel's Office, to Pat Roberts, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for distribution to the members of the committee.

The stated purpose of the memo is to tell members of the Committee what they can say about the warrantless surveillance program that the White House has decided to call the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," in light of past uncertainty by committee members as to "what they can say about the TSP."  I interpret that as Senators having asked what they can say without violating their oath of confidentiality on this secret program.  But most of the points have nothing to do with what should be secret and what should be public.  They address, for the most part, what the White House would like the Senators to say to build up support for the program.

Examples [with my commentary in brackets]:

The terrorist threat to this country is real.  We need to do everything possible to make our nation safe, and we need to do it in a way that preserves our civil liberties. [It's also much easier to see when there is light; what's this got to do with the legality/wisdom of the NSA program?]

As a member of an intelligence committee of congress, I am fully commited to that goal.  We are the watchdogs of the Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency that is carrying out the Terrorist Surveillance Program. [See comment to previous item]

I have...stood on the operations floor at NSA to see first hand how vital it is to the scurity of our country and how carefully it is being run. [You can see how vital it is from the operations floor?  Really?  Never would have guessed that.  Actually, I still don't.]
I can say that the program must continue.  It has detected terrorist plots that could have resulted in death or injury to Americans both at home and abroad. [Wow, that is certainly an informative, objective piece of information.  And it's a good thing it isn't classified, because then the Senators wouldn't be able to give us that piece of objective, crucial information.]
The program is not "data mining"; it targets only international communications closely connected to al Qa'ida or an affiliated group. [At last, a point worth remembering for the future--a flat out statement, approved by the administration, that the program does not resort to data mining.  I certainly hope that future revelations show this to be the truth, but it's nice to have these folks committed to a position.]

I have personally met the dedicated men and women of NSA. The country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude for their superb efforts to keep us all secure. [What's this got to do with the legality/wisdom of the NSA program?]

Current law is not agile enough to handle the threat posed by sophisticated international terrorist organizations such as al Qa'ida....[Then how come Mr. Gonzales always dodges the committee's questions about why the administration has not asked and/or worked with congress to get the necessary changes and still retain safeguards for our civil rights?]

Today, in part because of massive technology changes over the last 30 years, the FISA frequently requires judicial authority to collect the communications of non-U.S. persons outside the United States.  This clogs the FISA process with applications for court orders that have little to do with protecting U.S. privacy rights...[And what exactly does this have to do with "non-U.S. persons?"  The entire debate and controversy is over people who are "U.S. persons" under FISA.]

Shocking that the administration would approve such startling revelations, isn't it?

It really has gotten beyond disgusting, nauseating, and all the other adjectives we keep falling back on to describe this administration's unbreakable addiction to PR.  It's their only answer.  And it is DANGEROUS.