As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described
the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence
analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from
Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and
travel documents, without a search warrant.
Historically, military and
intelligence agencies have not been permitted to spy on Americans without
extraordinary legal authorization. But Admiral Poindexter, the former national
security adviser in the Reagan administration, has argued that the government
needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of minute details of
electronic life in the United States.
That's right, the same Poindexter indicted and convicted of 7 felony charges during the Iran-contra investigation of the early '90s (later overturned on appeal). Since he was running the "Total Information Awareness" program (an ominous sounding name without even pointing out that the aconym TIA is spanish for aunt. Seems Uncle Sam's ole lady is a nosey bitch) it didn't pass the smell test with congress and they cut the funding to it.
So apparently the Administration just did an end run around congress and the judicial branch as well. From what I gather, data mining isn't a way to track persons of interest. It seems like its a way to find persons of interest--by just spying on everyone and trying to root out bad guys. Now I'm not a lawyer but it seems like it would be pretty hard to get a warrant for something like that. "Judge we think there's a bad guy in Cleveland so we'd like a warrant to search everybody in town until we find a crook." Maybe that's why Bush's advisers told him FISA wouldn't work with nosey TIA.