NSA Wiretaps: the numbers tell a story of effectiveness, contrary to MSM spin

First, let’s look at the negative spin from the UPI story:

U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate. A review of Justice Department reports to Congress by Hearst newspapers shows the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years of the court’s operation. But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration, the report said. A total of 173 of those court-ordered “substantive modifications” took place in 2003 and 2004. And, the judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years — the first outright rejection of a wiretap request in the court’s history.

The UPI’s spin is 180 degrees out of phase of course. What they cite as failures or shortcomings are actually accomplishments when viewed through the prism of common sense.

So there were 600 surveillance requests a year during the Reagan, Bush I and Clinton presidencies. After 9-11, there seem to have been well over twice that number a year. Hmmm, sounds to us like Bush is doing the job he was elected to do. Moreover, less than 4% of the requests were modified at all, which seems like good focus on the administration’s part, not malpractice as the UPI spins it. Also, almost all of the modifications have taken place as we have moved further away from 9-11 (173 of 179 in 2003/4), which might indicate several things, including the environment’s becoming less target-rich, due to the good sleuthing by the Bush team. Finally, an infinitesimal 0.1% of the requests have been deferred or denied, further reinforcing our earlier points on the focus and effectiveness of the program, and by no means indicating any kind of rogue operation on the part of the administration. All in all, it sounds like an A+ effort by the Bush team, with the only open question the precise opposite of the MSM spin: does the extraordinarily low rate of FISA rejections indicate that the Bush administration is being way too careful in going after potential enemies of America?

The UPI uses the term “unprecedented rate” but misapplies it to the negligible number of challenges to Bush wiretaps: the term really should really refer to the unprecedented rate of seeking surveillance on enemies of America post 9-11, the unprecedented rate and number of approved wiretaps of these enemies, and perhaps to the efficacy and judgment of the Bush program, with the all-important “unprecedented rate” of al Qaeda attacks since 9-11 at zero, zip, nada.

You can’t expect the MSM, even the best of them, to frame a wartime issue correctly, can you? MSM, ho, hum.


It is now being widely reported (HT: Larwyn) that 64% of Americans approve of the NSA surveillance, according to this Rasmussen poll. What is so striking is that, looking in all the crosstabs, there is no group — by age, by sex, by party, by race, by anything at all — that disapproves, and most groups approve pretty overwhelmingly. You can’t really read this chart, but we include it to give you an idea of how impressive is the unanimity of majority approval, even including 50% of Democrats and 58% of independents.

However, there were no crosstabs of college professors, New York Times reporters, or Clinton-appointed judges, so results are imcomplete and could be misleading.

One Response to “NSA Wiretaps: the numbers tell a story of effectiveness, contrary to MSM spin”

  1. larwyn Says:

    64% of AMERICANS not on suicide watch – NSA OK!
    The majority of Americans are not putting themselves on suicide watch.
    This picked up from comments at MacsMind – also left by Snapple
    at AJStrata.

    Here is an uplifting Rasmussen Poll.

    National Security Agency
    December 28, 2005–Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

    Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

    Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not sure.

    Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans believe the NSA should be allowed to listen in on conversations between terror suspects and people living in the United States. That view is shared by 51% of Democrats and 57% of those not affiliated with either major political party.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/…om/2005/ NSA.htm
    ordi | 12.28.05 – 10:33 am | #

    Click here: HaloScan.com – Comments

    Truth is 49% of the Dems polled should be subject of an
    intervention – but they won’t listen to the Centrist Dems
    and the the Left controls the “mental health professions”
    so there is no hope for them.

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