This story raises a risk of Hillary Clinton as President

During wars, government has to have the power to do things that we normally wouldn't let them do. One thing is the power to spy on others. How many times did the Clinton administration abuse those powers and how many times was Hillary involved in the question. Take the FBI file problem that arose early in the Clinton administration where the Clinton adm was asking for FBI files on Republicans.

But Committee Republicans pressed their point that the two men should never have been put in charge of handling the FBI files of prominent Republicans given their political work on behalf of Democrats.

Fast forward to today. Even if this set of stories turns out to be true, it still raises an issue that was a problem during the Clinton administration.

Some versions of the story say simply that the U.S., without consulting British intelligence, was monitoring Diana’s phone conversations in Paris on the night she died, in August 1997. If American intelligence did that, and if the conversations tapped were between Diana, who was a foreign national, and some other person who was also a foreign national, then the action, although perhaps needlessly antagonistic to the British, would not raise questions of whether the administration sought a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

But the Evening Standard reports that American intelligence agencies “were bugging Princess Diana’s telephone over her relationship with a U.S. billionaire” — identified as American businessman Theodore Forstmann. That report suggests the surveillance took place over a period of some time. If that is accurate, then the story could be quite different.

Forstmann is what is known in the intelligence/legal world as a “U.S. person.” If there were a conversation between him, in the United States, and Diana, outside the United States, it would resemble, at least in structure, the conversations between people in the United States and those in foreign countries that have been at the center of the controversy over what President Bush calls the terrorist-surveillance program and what Democrats call “domestic spying.” (The difference, of course, would be that the Bush administration says it has listened to conversations involving people with known connections to a foreign enemy, al Qaeda; neither Diana nor Forstmann, a public-minded financier who was quite active in Republican politics, appears to fit a comparable description.)

If the Clinton administration did engage in surveillance of Diana/Forstmann, it is not clear if it was done with or without a warrant. “To get a FISA warrant, they would have had to believe that either Forstmann or Diana was an agent of a foreign power,” says one former Justice Department official. That, the official adds, would be an unlikely scenario. “To get a criminal warrant, they would have had to had a proceeding going on in which they got a judge to give them a warrant” — another unlikely scenario. “Or perhaps,” the official concludes, “the NSA did it.” . . . .


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