Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why We Spy

It's been awhile since I've commented on the NSA's terrorist intercept program, mainly because, along with the rest of the blogosphere (and especially John Hinderaker of Power Line), I've addressed most of the major issues regarding the program.

The bottom line, it's legal. The president has the authority to conduct surveillance under his Article II powers of the Constitution, and the judicial precedent set forth in Hamdi, Truong, and In Re: Sealed override the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, allowing the feds to circumvent the FISA courts.

But Ed Morrissey renews my interest in the program, and points us to an ABC News Report that reminds us why we spy:

The number 050-520-9905 is what several of the 9/11 hijackers dialed to establish contact with Mustafa al Hawsawi, a senior al Qaeda member in the United Arab Emirates.

Prosecutors said today that Hawsawi was one of the key financial contributors and travel coordinators for several of the 9/11 hijackers, and that the 9/11 investigation shows that Mohammed Atta was in regular contact with him in the weeks before the attack.

In laying out for the jury the specifics of how the 9/11 plot was hatched, prosecutors showed the jury a series of money transfer orders and records of calls to Hawsawi from Mohammed Atta, which he made using an AT&T calling card.

Restricting counter-terrorism intelligence by forcing it to fit in with criminal domestic laws and the FISA provisions will ultimately make such intelligence efforts useless.

But even if we recognize this fact, The New York Times has still done a great damage to the NSA's intercept program. With the program's existence now common knowledge, terrorists will likely choose alternate methods through which they can initiate their terror plots and their fellow terrorists.