November 20, 2008

Turf Wars, Surveillance and Legality [9:42 am]

The fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of a turf war over secret surveillance, at the end, is possibly the most enervating thing about all of this: New York Police Fight With U.S. on Surveillance (pdf)

The Police Department, with the largest municipal counterterrorism operation in the country, wants the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to loosen their approach to the federal law that governs electronic surveillance. But federal officials have refused to relax the standards, and have said requests submitted by the department could actually jeopardize surveillance efforts by casting doubt on their legality.

[...] In his five-page letter on Oct. 27, Mr. Kelly wrote to Mr. Mukasey charging that the F.B.I. and Justice Department had thwarted the Police Department’s intelligence efforts in two specific cases. He wrote that federal authorities were “constraining” critical terrorism investigations in New York and said the federal government “is doing less than it is lawfully entitled to protect New York City,” concluding that “the city is less safe as a result.”

Mr. Mukasey, in a seven-page retort, dated Oct. 31, dismissed what he called Mr. Kelly’s “alarming conclusions” as factually incorrect. Mr. Mukasey wrote that Mr. Kelly was in effect proposing that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. disregard the law, as spelled out in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

“Not only would your approach violate the law, it would also in short order make New York City and the rest of the country less safe,” wrote Mr. Mukasey, a federal judge in Manhattan before he became attorney general.

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