The facts for this, but not the legal conclusions, come from a daily briefing on war security matters, published on 18 January, 2007, on GovExec.com. It begins by recounting the fact that this week, Attorney General Gonzales “took heat” from the Senate Judiciary Committee about “the federal government’s domestic electronic eavesdropping program and the Pentagon’s use of an anti-terrorism law to collect financial records of U.S. citizens.”
This is the ACLU spin on this particular situation. As factual descriptions have repeatedly made clear, there is not, and never has been, any “domestic eavesdropping.” Electronic messages were intercepted outside the US – which is not forbidden by any US law. And the targeted messages were either to, from, or between individuals who were suspected of being involved in terrorism. Many of the suspect phone numbers or other references came from captured individuals on the battlefield, or from their computers or cell phones.
Any US administration which did not use these electronic capacities to identify would-be terrorists inside the US and thwart their plans, would properly be accused of incompetence and contributing to the future loss of American lives.
Attorney General Gonzales announced that future activities in this area would be supervised by a special National Security Court. Although some Senators complained that “it took a long time for this to be done,” General Gonzales explained that it could not be done until the Court itself developed procedures for immediate action, when there is a threat of immediate attack. The Court has now done this.
Even this step is apparently unsatisfactory to the ACLU. “The legality of this unprecedented surveillance program should not be decided by a secret court in one-sided proceedings” ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson said.
The net result of this is that all pending ACLU legal challenges to the international intercepts – not domestic eavesdropping – should be dismissed with prejudice.