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Si vive en los EEUU y no sabe lo que es FISA, usted debería leer esto…

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SUMARIO:  El Acta de Vigilancia e Inteligencia Extranjera (FISA), de 1978 fue establecido para limitar los abusos de autoridad cometidos bajo el programa de contra-inteligencia del FBI, altamente exitoso y despiadado. Se nombró COINTELPRO y se ejecutó bajo el gobiernodel Presidente Richard Nixon, con J. Edgar Hoover, como director del FBI. El programa hizo exactamente lo contrario de lo que suponía su creación: instauró una corte secreta donde jueces anónimos elegidos por el Fiscal General de la Corte Suprema de los EEUU podían aprobar intercepciones telefónicas y electrónicas, y  registros domiciliarios sin ninguna causa probable. Pregúntele a Theresa Marie Squillacote, Kurt Alan Stand y James Michael Clark, victimas de FISA…

FULL TEXT IN ENGLISH

If you live in the US and you don't know what FISA is you'd better read this…

As more people in the United States wake up to the realities of the Patriot Act and previous supporters of Bush's evisceration of civil rights no longer eagerly wag their tails every time he bays for more retribution, we should remember COINTELPRO and, more ominously, we should remember its issue, FISA.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was designed to limit the abuses of authority made under the FBI's highly successful and totally ruthless Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) by President Richard Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It did just the opposite.

It created a secret court whereby anonymous judges chosen by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court can grant wiretaps and break-ins without any probable cause. The subject of an investigation perpetrated by this court cannot challenge its evidence or even answer any evidence brought against them.

Ask Theresa Marie Squillacote, Kurt Alan Stand and James Michael Clark, all of whom were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage after FISA was used to carry out extensive surveillance on them. Surveillance that included doctor-patient discussions, home and office taps, and even a bedroom wire.

The purpose of this article is not to determine whether these three were indeed going to commit a crime. That's for movies like Minority Report that are all too frighteningly true in their concepts nowadays. The issue is that they did not commit the one for which they were tried - namely that they had sold US secrets to a foreign power. They were charged after an FBI sting operation hooked them, and sentenced to very heavy prison terms for a
crime they had not yet actually committed.

Theresa Marie Squillacote was a senior staff attorney in the office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Reform until January 1997. She had also worked for the House Armed Services Committee. Kurt Alan Stand, her husband, was a regional union representative and labor organizer. James Michael Clark, was a private investigator who had once worked for a defense contractor at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Boulder, Colorado, and had access to classified information on chemical warfare.

After the names of the three reportedly came up in CIA-captured East German files as left wing sympathizers, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, they were placed under surveillance using FISA's secret court. A full two years later they were arrested by a frustrated FBI team that couldn't get them to commit any actual crime without a sting operation. An undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of Nelson Mandela's South African government eventually managed to induce Squillacote to provide classified documents and the three were arrested for spying for a foreign power.

Red baited by the press that tagged them "Red Diaper Babies", Squillacote received a sentence of 21 years and 10 months in prison. Stand received 17 years and six months in prison, and Clark was given 12 years and seven months.
 
Aside from the charge of attempted espionage involving the undercover FBI agent, Squillacote and Stand were convicted on charges of conspiring with their left wing college friend Clark to commit espionage for East Germany, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of South Africa from the 1970s until their arrest in 1997.

That's conspiring to commit and attempted espionage. It was never proved that they had ever passed secrets to a foreign power. No evidence was ever produced to substantiate this because the FBI had none. FISA came in handy when the issue of evidence became annoying and when the agency had enough information on Squillacote's character to draw her into a sting. Quoting from court documents prepared by the defense: "In the course of that surveillance, the government intercepted and transcribed several of Squillacote's sessions with her psychotherapists, and later apparently used that information to design an undercover operation tailored, by its explicit terms, to "exploit" her psychiatric vulnerabilities". Clearly, there were no qualms by the FBI - they were determined to make a charge stick, and, with COINTELPRO experience behind them, they were successful. Defense counsel was never allowed to see the application for FISA surveillance or told the basis on which it was ordered.

Public outrage at government, and especially FBI, abuse in the 1960s and 70s forced Congress to carry out an investigation via a body named the Church Committee from which FISA was born. Aside from discovering major abuses of civil and human rights, the Committee found that the supposed separation of federal domestic law enforcement and counter-intelligence activities was a myth. The two went hand in glove.

As one of Squillacote's lawyers explained to the court, electronic surveillance in criminal investigations requires a warrant under Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 and the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. The purpose of FISA was to create a warrant procedure in counter-intelligence surveillance to allegedly right the wrongs of the Nixon years.

However, warrantless national security surveillance is illegal if its basis is the furtherance of a criminal investigation. Clearly the case with Squillacote, Stand and Clark.

When FISA was enacted, it was estimated that its use would be some 100 times a year. However, in its 20 year existence, not a single surveillance request by the government has been denied. Not a single one of more than 10,000 requests. More FISA wiretaps are now granted than regular criminal wiretap warrants issued by criminal courts.

As Theresa Squillacote's attorney says, the U.S. government has been wiretapping, bugging, and breaking and entering the home of anyone it suspects of being an "agent" of a "foreign power." The "foreign power" can be a government, a faction of a government, or just an organization in a foreign country. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act it doesn't matter, and neither does the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (probable cause of criminal activity), as Theresa Squillacote, Kurt Stand and James Clark discovered.

And you thought the measures taken in the Patriot Act were something new? FISA has been around since 1978...

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Simon Wollers

Simon Wollers

Periodista inglés, colaborador de Cubadebate.