Michael Mukasey visits San Francisco

March 27, 2008 7:29:14 PM PDT
U.S. Attorney general Michael Mukasey choked-up with emotion today as he defended the Bush Administration's warrant-less wiretapping.

He was talking to members of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

San Francisco is at the center of one of the biggest wire tapping cases. What did mukasey say about it?

He didn't talk about the specifics of the case. In very general terms, he said the government needs to listen in on suspected terrorists and he said the pre-September 11th legal channels are too cumbersome.

Attorney general Michael Mukasey came to San Francisco to talk about restoring public confidence in government.

The confidence of a great many Americans was shaken, when an AT&T whistle blower revealed company documents showing telephone and Internet cables were being routed to a locked room in the company's Folsom Street offices.

He said government agents using computers in that room were engaged in whole sale eavesdropping on millions of Americans.

"This is a war unlike any we've ever been involved in," said Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Mukasey defended the eavesdropping as one of the few weapons the government has to stop terrorists, and he said before September 11th there were calls to the highjackers the government didn't intercept.

"We got 3,000 people who went to work that day and didn't come home to show for that," said Mukasey.

Mukasey said revealing how phone calls are intercepted now would give away the government's advantage; going to court to get warrants would take too much time.

"In that time we lose intelligence," said Mukasey.

But that argument doesn't wash says one of the attorneys suing AT&T.

"I'm not sure what they mean by losing intelligence because they get to tap first and get authority later," said Cindy Cohn from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is correct in saying the Federal Intelligence surveillance Act or FISA, allows for the government to wire tap first and submit the paper work later, and the warrants are routinely granted.

"The FISA court is most generous court to the government ever created they never say no to the government," said Cohn.

Still Mukasey says the lawsuits against the telecom companies for cooperating with the government should be thrown out.

"Forget the liability that they face we face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they did which is to say the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets," said Mukasey.

"This isn't going to exposed to anyone in the history of the FISA Law and the Classified intelligence laws there has never been a leak from a federal judge," said Cohn.

Cohn says if the details do come out, they will come out in private, they will not be heard in open court.

Both sides are waiting on the Ninth Circuit Court to decide if a lawsuit against AT&T can go forward in spite of the State Secrets Act.