Domestic wiretapping

December 22, 2005

Fox News, December 22, 2005

Brigitte Quinn: The President will say that he absolutely has the constitutional authority to protect Americans from terror with this program. What do you say?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think the real issue here is: why did he need to do this? Nobody can quite understand, technically, why this was necessary, because under his existing authorities, he can authorize wiretaps and then- of anything abroad- and under the Federal, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts- FISA courts- you can get approval to wiretap domestically and where it’s connected with foreign intelligence. And it’s even retroactive.

Brigitte Quinn: Right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: So if you pick up something, you can run in there. So, and this is a court that’s never turned down the- turned down three times out of thousands. So, why was it necessary then to disregard that court, and what does it mean?

Brigitte Quinn: Right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Nobody really understands it. It’s more a question of fact first, because I think the American people want their security protected.

Brigitte Quinn: Mm hm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And they also want a Constitutional government-

Brigitte Quinn: Right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: With checks and balances. And-

Brigitte Quinn: But General, about FISA, I guess the argument, you know, for going around that is that in these cases of terror, when you’re trying to connect the dots, and you’re trying to prevent a possible terrorist attack, time is of the essence, essence. The FISA laws were made in response to the Cold War threat, a very different kind of threat.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, the specific question is: what is it that you can’t do under FISA? For example, if you got information and you discovered you had to wiretap and you wiretapped, then for up to 72 hours you just go to a judge and say, “Hey, I just had to do this. Please approve it.” And the judge’ll approve it. Why is that not adequate? That’s what nobody seems to understand and the administration hasn’t explained. It’s a question of facts and technology.