People working in the American intelligence community receive annual training in what is known as Intelligence Oversight (IO), a collection of laws, executive orders, DoD regulations, NSA Directives, and Air Force Instructions that seek to ensure that intelligence gathering complies with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their house, persons, papers from unreasonable search and seizure shall not be infringed, and no warrants shall issue except on a showing of probable cause . . .
Except . . . maybe not:
While there is little transparency into the FISA Courts, they are at least courts, independent jurists charged with making sure the NSA has met the standard of probable cause before authorizing the search or interception of their communications.
. . . unless the NSA director really wants to. Or Eric Holder tells him to. In which case, well, no need to bother with that warrant business. Just go ahead. Seriously, it must be a cush gig being a FISA Court judge nowadays. Why would anyone bother them for anything?
But this is okay, since they only do that when their chasing terrorists. Right?
Yes, terrorism. And also protecting their employees. And also any imminent “threat”. And also . . . any other laws they need to enforce.
Well, okay, no 4th Amendment for bad guys. Good guys, we law-abiding folks, we are still secure. Right?
Oh. I’m not sure what “intelligible form” means in the context of electronic communications, but I’m guessing it means “looking at it”, and I’m not sure if that covers an automated scan of the communications by a computer. Otherwise, the government can collect, process, and store our communications without restraint.
After, reading this, I’m pretty sure that the IO program would probably prevent some mid-level staffer at NSA from using spy satellites to cyber-stalk her ex. Otherwise, I’m not seeing much in the way of oversight. I can’t see what would prevent the Attorney General from sic’ing the IC on, say, the TEA party on a trumped up charge of violating tax-exempt status, for instance.
Constitutional Government: it was fun while it lasted.