Bob Cesca is trying to sort out fact from fiction in the allegations about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. It’s pretty tricky because the way the law works, the internet companies that were implicated couldn’t tell the truth if they were actually providing direct access to their servers. However, their denials seem pretty emphatic and convincing. I don’t sense any kind of rote denials like you’d expect if they were forced to lie. I am not convinced that the Washington Post or Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian really got much of a scoop. The basic outlines of the program were already understood on Capitol Hill. Related capabilities have been reported on for years. On the main charge of direct access to the servers, the Washington Post now expresses some doubt, as it was based entirely on language in a Powerpoint presentation that may be more ambiguous than it at first seemed.

I think it’s healthy to have a debate, and I personally think that some of what is legal should be illegal, and that the process should be more transparent. The FISA Court should do more reporting to Congress. Their rulings should be declassified, at least to the Intelligence Committees, if not to the whole world. But the essential thing is that there is judicial oversight. And no one is alleging that the NSA is still avoiding the FISA Court.

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