When asked about what would happen if the Patriot Act expired, Richard Clarke says the FBI could obey Fourth Amendment as temporary stop-gap measure.
Yesterday, ABC News ran the headline, “NSA Domestic Surveillance Program ‘Likely’ to Expire Tonight, Former Counterterrorism Official Says.”
The former counterterrorism official was Richard Clarke. He served as the counterterrorism “czar” under Bill Clinton and then continued until 2003 under the Bush Administration. He made his remarks to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
“What I think will likely happen tonight is the law will expire,” Richard Clarke said Sunday morning. “And then later in the week, the USA Freedom Act, which is essentially the same as the PATRIOT Act with the exception of the telephony metadata program, that act will pass and most of the authorities will be restored.”
Though the White House says even a temporary lapse in the NSA’s authority could affect national security, Clarke says it’s unlikely to endanger Americans.
“It probably is not as big a deal as the president is making out,” he said, noting that the FBI can use other tools, like warrants, in the interim.
“We’re likely to be faced with only a few days where the FBI won’t have a handful of tools that, frankly, they don’t often use,” said Clarke, who in 2013 recommended that the Obama administration end bulk metadata collection.
Was Clarke being sarcastic? Possibly, since he has advocated that the NSA’s program be scrapped.
But nothing in the text of the story gives you any hint that he was being sarcastic. Also, the incredible quote isn’t his own words but is a summary written by the journalist. We are supposed to take it completely seriously when we read that, “the FBI can use other tools, like warrants, in the interim.”
So what is the writer telling us?
In his summary of Clarke’s statement, he is saying that the FBI can temporarily revert to following the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a stop-gap measure until some new affront to the founding law of the land is devised.
Warrants in the interim. You can’t make this stuff up.