Ira Winkler, a former NSA analyst, discusses the NSA domestic spying in this article at ComputerWorld. Winkler states flat-out that “[i]gnoring FISA's rules concerning warrants is illegal,” and observes that:
This scattershot attempt at data mining drags FBI agents away from real investigations, while destroying the NSA’s credibility in the eyes of law enforcement and the public in general.
Although the Right will probably try to slander him as someone who hates the NSA and its mission (due to statements like “The actions taken by the executive branch after 9/11 aren't protecting our freedom. They are usurping it.”), Winkler is not their caricature:
Over the years, I have defended the NSA and its employees as reasonable and law abiding. I was all for invading Afghanistan, deployment of the Clipper Chip and many other controversial government programs. NSA domestic spying is against everything I was ever taught working at the NSA. I might be more for it if there was any credible evidence that this somehow provides useful information that couldn’t otherwise be had. However, the domestic spying program has gotten so massive that the well-established process of getting a warrant cannot be followed -- and quantity most certainly doesn't translate to quality. Quite the opposite.
I think Sen. Jon Kyl, a strong supporter of the NSA domestic spying program, said it best: "We have got to collect intelligence on the enemy." I fully agree. But the enemy numbers in the hundreds at best. the NSA is collecting data on hundreds of millions of people who are clearly not the enemy. These numbers speak for themselves. [emphasis added]
(Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the tip.)
Glenn Greenwald has a nice piece on the joint Feingold/Specter proposal. Here are its three main provisions:
Re-state that FISA is the exclusive means by which our government can conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil for foreign intelligence purposes; Prohibit the use of federal funds for any future domestic electronic surveillance that does not fully comply with the law; and Expressly state that there is no such thing as an “implied” repeal of FISA laws. In other words, no future bill can be interpreted as authorizing an exemption from FISA unless it expressly makes an exception.
When the Busheviks continue to break the law, as they no doubt will, the proposed bill “would also force them to find a way to fund any non-FISA eavesdropping activities notwithstanding a Congressional ban on such funding.” Mush like Reagan’s violations of the Boland amendment in his illegal gun-running escapades in Central America, there is little doubt that Bush will violate the law even if it is made more explicit. When he does so, however, we must not let his felonious administration escape justice under a fog of failures to recall. They must be held to account for what they have done.
The bill is here. (60KB PDF).