Man Without Qualities

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Contra Adragna III

Mr. Adragna now produces an increasingly dizzy whirl of arguments, including:

(A) Because Janet Reno authorized a warrantless search of the residence of Aldrich H. Ames, the FBI must have had authority to search Mr. Moussaoui's computer; and

(B) "After the search of the Ames residence, FISA was amended to cover physical searches"; and

(C) "So, how is it that the statute prevented a search when the Court upholds the legality of warrantless searches irrespective of the statute "so long as the primary purpose of the investigation was foreign intelligence gathering”?

Well, whatever authority Ms. Reno used to "authorize" her warrantless of the Ames residence, nobody in her position today could rely on FISA, as amended, to authorize such a search for the simple reason that Mr. Ames was and is a "US person," unlike Mr. Moussaoui - and the portion of FISA Mr.Adragna has been quoting only applies to people who are not "US persons." So the Ames case (and Ms. Reno's actions in it) doesn't seem to be relevant here. [To authorize a FISA warrantless search the Attorney General must certify under oath and penalty of perjury that "there is no substantial likelihood that the physical search will involve the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person."]

Mr. Ames was a high-ranking official of the CIA, which creates unique national security issues not at all involved in foreign terrorist search cases. Worse, while Mr. Adragna's writing is increasingly agitated and unclear, it appears that he may now be arguing that the Attorney General can authorize warrantless searches of anyone - United States person or not - "so long as the primary purpose of the investigation was foreign intelligence gathering." If that is the case - and he seems to be writing just that - then it is a great understatement to say that he is very seriously misinformed. Suffice to say that a warrantless search of a suspect high CIA official would not trouble most informed American, including federal judges. To extend that mechanism to ALL Americans "so long as the primary purpose of the investigation was foreign intelligence gathering" calls into question the very existence of the rule of law - and I would be astounded if the Court (which, of course, means the United States Supreme Court in correct usage) ever has or ever would authorize such a sweeping and monstrous principle.

I also have to remark on Mr. Adragna's continuing strange over-reliance on Ms. Rowley's memo. Her reasoning is far from persuasive in many cases. Mr. Adragna reproduces this choice bit from her memo:

"For example, at one point, the Supervisory Special Agent at FBIHQ posited that the French information could be worthless because it only identified Zacarias Moussaoui by name and he, the SSA, didn't know how many people by that name existed in France. A Minneapolis agent attempted to surmount that problem by quickly phoning the FBI's legal Attache (Legat) in Paris, France, so that a check could be made of the French telephone directories. Although the Legat in France did not have access to all of the French telephone directories, he was able to quickly ascertain that there was only one listed in the Paris directory. It is not known if this sufficiently answered the question, for the SSA continued to find new reasons to stall."

Well, according to WorldPages there is only one person named Anthony Adragna in New York City - so by Ms. Rowley's reasoning in the above footnote that person in New York must be the Anthony Adragna of QuasiPundit and the FBI can make that representation to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and certify to that effect? Or maybe Mr. Adragna thinks this would be sufficient basis for Mr. Ashcroft to certify under oath and penalty of perjury that the QuasiPundit Anthony Adragna is the same person as the Queens Anthony Adragna? Also, to her credit, Agent Rowley continually points out that her memo is informed and colored by "20-20 hindsight," a point which at least one Mr. Adragna omits to take into account.

Mr. Adragna has not abolish and cannot abolish the fact that if the FBI officers in Washington had been acting under a lower statutory standard than FISA "probable cause" they would have authorized the search. That is exactly the effect (the "effect" being the difficulty in obtaining the warrant and not, of course, the horrors of September 11) those such as Senator Leahy, President Carter and the liberal media intended to achieve - and they were completely successful.

But Mr. Adragna does get one thing very right: It is of utmost importance to change the way the FBI was run by the Clinton-Gore Administration for eight years Such change takes time. There was no time to do that meaningfully prior to September 11 - and to the extent the problem at the FBI was a "people problem," it was a Clinton-Gore "people problem." Also, Mr. Meuller's post-September 11 behavior - the main and entirely justified focus of the Rowley memo - is highly questionable, and effective change may require his resignation notwithstanding that he took over from Clinton's Mr. Freeh only on September 4. Meaningful change will require not only time but the executive leadership completely lacking in the prior Administration and the full cooperation of both the House and the Senate. That means the voters are going to have to make some changes in the Senate - and there is no better place to work than with Senators Daschle and Leahy, the latter even Mr. Adragna says he is not defending in this matter. And there are plenty more liberal Democrats in the Senate for the voters to weed out starting in November.

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