Wednesday, March 21, 2007

American MI5?

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' Judge Richard Posner addresses the question of the lack of adequate domestic intelligence in the United States:

The FBI came under heavy criticism last week when it was reported that the agency had failed properly to supervise the issuance of national security letters, a form of administrative subpoena used in terrorist investigations. The bureau, it turns out, was unable even to determine how many such subpoenas it has issued.

Just weeks earlier, it was discovered that the FBI had been misreporting the statistics that it uses to track its intelligence activities. The bureau attributed that lapse to its continued struggle -- five and a half years after the 9/11 attacks -- to master modern information technology. The FBI also inflates its counterterrorist statistics by defining terrorism to include the acts of obnoxious but minor political criminals, such as white supremacists, animal-rights extremists and makers of idle (but frightening) phone threats.

Is it the case that the FBI is "incapable of effective counterterrorism," as an editorial in this newspaper wondered? Does the country need "to debate again whether domestic antiterror functions should be taken from the FBI and given to a new agency modeled after Britain's MI5"?

The answer to both questions is yes.

Quite a scathing pronouncement indeed. Fans of James Bond books and movies may be delighted at the prospect of having an MI5-styled domestic intelligence agency here in the United States, but civil libertarians are apprehensive. Judge Posner notes:

Civil libertarians worry about abuses of domestic intelligence. But an agency that had no powers of arrest or prosecution, and that conceived its primary role to be to prevent the alienation of Americans who have religious or family ties to nations that harbor terrorists, rather than to run up arrest statistics, would be less likely than the FBI to engage in the promiscuous issuance of administrative subpoenas.

How would an agency that had "no powers of arrest or prosecution" do its work? This can be quite befuddling, particularly if one views counterterrorism as nothing more than routine law enforcement. This is an understandable attitude, but only because the United States has never had a real domestic intelligence unit. In the popular media, the FBI or the CIA spies on citizens within the United States itself; but the CIA is not empowered to conduct domestic intelligence gathering, and the FBI's abuses are (supposedly) checked by the Bill of Rights, particularly the Fourth (addressing searches and seizures, including nontraditional searches and seizures such as wiretapping), the Fifth (addressing self-incrimination), and the Sixth (addressing right to counsel) Amendments.

The idea of an analog to MI5 has been around for a while, particularly after 9/11, when it was apparent that FBI agents did not act on tips from Arizona regarding some of the 19 hijackers taking flying lessons but never moving on to lessons on landing planes. And yet the FBI seemed mostly to have played by the book; indeed, its extra zeal now, particularly in taking advantage of the Patriot Act, seems like an overcompensation.

The remaining worry, then, is whether or not a domestic intelligence agency with no arresting or prosecuting powers would be at all effective. Further, to whom would it report? The Secretary of the Interior? The Secretary of State? And should it be placed under the Department of Homeland Security? Should it be placed under the Director of National Intelligence? How independent should it be from the FBI? What about turf wars between the FBI and a Domestic Intelligence Agency?

My gut instinct is that Judge Posner is right. He has articulated a great rationale for having a DIA. How that would be implemented, in the current political atmosphere, is another story.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wit of Mandamus III

On Friday, March 16, 2007, at 7:30pm in the Student Lounge at Loyola Law School, the third incarnation of a renewed tradition took place: Wit of Mandamus III. Law Law Stud proudly reported from Wit of Mandamus II, and continues to bring you reportage from the leading edge of LLS social life.

Article I

The show began with one of the student founders of the show, Cameron Fredman, jazzing along on the piano with the House Band, bringing out the Master of Ceremonies, Lenny "Ham Sandwich" Sansanowicz, another of the student founders of the show.

Abstract (part 1 of 3)

Abstract (part 2 of 3)

Abstract (part 3 of 3)

After Lenny's introduction, Zack Domb kicked off the musical performances with an original piece, "Melanie":

"Melanie" (part 1 of 3)

"Melanie" (part 2 of 3)

"Melanie" (part 3 of 3)

Taking the show in a slightly different direction, Mike Hanna wowed the audience with amazing beatbox skills. (Video clips courtesy of youngotti888.)

Mike Hanna (part 1 of 2)

Mike Hanna (part 2 of 2)

Next up, Carley Mak brought her friends back to a choreographed swing dance routine based on "Sister Kate", and to a jam with the House Band.

"Sister Kate"

Swing Dancin' with the House Band

Following up was the Stud himself. Lenny gave a most moving introduction as he passed the Wit of Mandmaus torch. Curiously, there are currently no video clips of this act.

Scott Wilson, President of the Day Student Bar Association, performed Frederic Chopin's "Valtz in A#, Op. 42".

Scott Wilson Playing Chopin (part 1 of 2)

Scott Wilson Playing Chopin (part 2 of 2)

Teresa Straley, an LLS alumn, was next with her original work, "Once Upon a Time", accompanied by Professor Jay Dougherty.

Stephen Cawelti, another LLS alumn, then joined them to sing the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There".

Next, Professor Allan Ides and 3L Alex Diaz joined them to play "Ruby Tuesday".

Closing out the first half of the show, Craig Kirkwood sang as he and the House Band brought the audience George Gershwin's "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess.

Article II

Ushering in the second half, albeit without an intermission, playwright-scholar Jose "Oldman" Garcia, and a quickly assembled cast, brought us "In re Tramp", a hilarious series of law school jokes regarding a claim brought against one Miss Hilton for adverse possession of a love interest.

Due to the sudden shift in schedule, the Stud didn't quite catch Dennis "Funhouse" Martin in "Stolen Moments".

Shifting back again to law-related humor, Professor John Nockleby and the Noklebettes, with the House Band in support, sang their hearts out in "All I Care About is (Torts)". The Stud regained his equanimity just in time to catch the last part on video.

Next up was singer-songwriter David Jonelis, who had already made his mark at the 2006 PILF Auction. For Wit of Mandamus III, David played an original work, "Reflections".

Zack Domb officially introduced the audience to Bill Shafton as they performed Zack's new original piece, "Angie". (By request, a clip of "Angie" will not be posted.)

Then, Bill was on his own as he played an amazing rendition of "Redemption Song", first softly with finger picking style, then strumming with an energetic pick.

"Redemption Song" (part 1 of 2 - finger picking)

"Redmption Song" (part 2 of 2)

Not to be outdone, Director Jonathan Stout displayed his talent in "Dark Eyes", backed up by Zack Domb on the guitar and John Given on the bass. Jonathan is a regular Django Reinhardt!

As the show neared its end, Puya Partow delighted the audience, dancing and twirling to "Billie Jean".

Finally, to close out the night, the Professors returned to the stage for a medley, including "Midnight Hour", "We Gotta Get Outta This Place", and "Gimme Some Lovin'". Preparing to wrap things up, the Stud did not obtain video of the entire medley (only "Midnight Hour"), but rest assured, it was a thing of beauty!

And thus the night came to an end. The Stud thanks all the performers for putting on such a terrific show; the audience, for making the performance worth putting on; all those who helped with last minute changes (you know who you are); and Giancarlo, for manning the ticket table.

Finally, if you were not able to attend or perform this year, the tradition will keep going. Get on the boat early, and we'll see you next year!



  • Producer: Bruce Chang
  • Director: Jonathan Stout
  • House Band: Zack Domb (guitar), John Given (bass), Cameron Fredman (piano), Jonathan Stout (drums)
  • Master of Ceremonies: Lenny Sansanowicz
  • Spotlight: Tim Oppelt
  • Publicity: Mike Hanna

Special Thanks

  • Marti Reynolds, for showing us the ropes
  • Ernesto Lozano, for coming through
  • Professor John Nockleby, for inspiring us at 8am
  • Lenny Sansanowicz and Cameron Fredman, for starting a tradition
  • Tim Oppelt and Jenn Rich, for continuing the tradition
    - and -
  • The Staff of Loyola Law School

(All videos except for Mike Hanna's beatbox routine were taken with a Canon Powershot S70, set at a resolution of 640x480.)