Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NSA may have been eavesdropping before Bush formally authorized it

I've got one word for it: good.

Even before the White House formally authorized a secret program to spy on U.S. citizens without obtaining warrants, such eavesdropping was occurring and some of the information was being shared with the FBI, declassified correspondence and interviews with congressional and intelligence officials indicate.

On Oct. 1, 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was running the National Security Agency at the time, told the House intelligence committee that the agency was broadening its surveillance authorities, according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff.

Well at least she got it declassified first.

"I am concerned whether and to what extent the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting," Pelosi wrote on Oct. 11, 2001. The substance of Hayden's response one week later, on Oct. 17, 2001, was redacted.

Since we're discussing concerns, I'm concerned that your foolishness is harming the national security of the country. He's got the authority and went through appropriate channels. That's all you need to know.

[...]"During your appearance before the committee," she wrote, "you indicated that you had been operating since the September 11 attacks with an expansive view of your authorities with respect to the conduct of electronic surveillance." The letter, while redacted in parts concerned with surveillance, made clear that the agency was "forwarding" intercepts and other collected information to the FBI. Two sources familiar with the NSA program said Pelosi was directly referring to information collected without a warrant on U.S. citizens or residents.

One: cooperation between agencies to stop terrorists is good, in case Pelosi has forgotten what side of the fight she's on again.
Two: We're spying of international communications, not US citizens.

An intelligence official close to Hayden said that his appearance on Oct. 1, 2001, before the House committee had been to discuss Executive Order 12333, and not the new NSA program.

The order, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, gave guidance and specific instructions about the intelligence activities that the U.S. government could engage in. It specifically prohibited domestic surveillance for intelligence purposes without a warrant "unless the Attorney General has determined in each case that there is probable cause to believe that the technique is directed against a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."

The official said that Pelosi's concerns had been answered in writing and again several weeks later during a private briefing.

Bush went through the appropriate channels, getting AG Gonzales's approval. But like I said yesterday, the Dems will beat this dead horse and in the process continue to marginalize themselves from mainstream America, appearing softer on defense than usual.