Former NSA Lawer Stewart Baker: FISA Minimization Policies Are To Blame For 9/11 Attacks

Stewart Baker, former DHS official and NSA counsel, has plenty of blame to spread around for the 9/11 attacks. None of it seems to lay at the feet of the terrorists who performed the attacks, however. He's entertained various theories over the past few months as he's defended the actions of the NSA, TSA and various other government agencies.

Most egregiously, Baker claimed civil liberties activists were to blame for the 9/11 attacks because their concern over warrantless wiretap programs somehow made the FISA court so defensive it wouldn't let the FBI pursue terrorists it knew were currently in the country.

Baker expounds on this further in his post criticizing the NSA-targeting Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill, making the argument that FISA minimization policies prevented the FBI from tracking down terrorists located in the US.

The Leahy-Sensenbrenner USA FREEDOM Act puts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) court in charge of shaping, overseeing, and enforcing minimization guidelines in connection with section 215, pen/trap orders, and section 702, largely taking the Attorney General out of the process of writing minimization guidelines. I’m appalled, because the FIS court has taken control of minimization before, with disastrous consequences; it built a “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement without any legal basis for doing so, and enforced the wall so aggressively that the FBI couldn’t use its best counterterrorism assets to track down the hijackers in late August and early September 2001. In a very real sense, it was the FIS court’s legal error combined with a self-righteous use of its contempt power that thwarted the country’s last, best chance to stop the attacks.
Baker is one of the only people out there who have taken the FISA court to task for being "too restrictive." According to Baker, this is because its reaction to early "rubber stamp" criticism was to swing the other way and utilize its contempt power to limit the reach of intelligence agencies...


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