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John M. "Mike" McConnell, who succeeded John Negroponte as US Director of National Intelligence in February, delivered a policy address to the 2007 Excellence in Government Conference Wednesday criticizing federal surveillance laws as outdated and unresponsive to terrorist threats. McConnell, who previously served as the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) from 1992 to 1996 before working for private consulting firm Booz Allen until February, said:

The laws that we had coming out of Vietnam, Watergate, Church-Pike hearings of the '70s served us well. But it also set up barriers and cultures and processes that did not make us well suited to combat a new "ism," in this case terrorism.

What do I mean by that? When someone enters this country, they are considered a US person. They have all the rights and privileges – let me restate that – most of the rights and privileges of a US citizen. So if the intelligence community is tracking someone of suspected terrorism and they arrive in this country in a legal status, they're now off limits to the intelligence community. Switch to law enforcement. The rules and regulations on law enforcement are much more stringent with regard to conducting surveillance of either US citizens or US persons. So the terrorists that came here and operated here prior to 9/11, so long as they were here legally and so long as they did not break the law, they were mostly invisible to us.


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