By Robert Parry
August 5, 2007
Eager to leave for its August recess, Congress handed George W. Bush another blank check on executive power, letting him order up spying directives against a vast number of people, including Americans, if they are physically outside the United States.
The “Protect America Act of 2007” sets the standard for a surveillance order – which can last for up to one year – as simply that it be “directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.”
The bill’s advocates claim it is intended to intercept communications when at least one party is linked to a terrorist group or a terrorist affiliate and is outside the United States. But the bill’s language doesn’t limit the surveillance to “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” – indeed those words are not mentioned in the legislation.
Nor does the bill, which was drafted by the Bush administration’s national security team, specify what happens to a one-year surveillance order against a target if the person then enters – or returns – to the United States. The vaguely worded act gives broad discretion to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.
Its key language states: “Notwithstanding any other law, the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”
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