Sunday, May 14, 2006
Cheney--Not Intelligence Pros--Wanted NSA CATCH ALL Program
The extra-legal NSA warrantless eavesdropping was not conceived by U.S. intelligence experts but by Vice President Dick Cheney, today's New York Times reports.
As a matter of fact, the intelligence professionals opposed the idea for reasons that included the illegality of the operation.
In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.
But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001...
On one side was a strong-willed vice president and his longtime legal adviser, David S. Addington, who believed that the Constitution permitted spy agencies to take sweeping measures to defend the country. Later, Mr. Cheney would personally arrange tightly controlled briefings on the program for select members of Congress.
On the other side were some lawyers and officials at the largest American intelligence agency, which was battered by eavesdropping scandals in the 1970's and has since wielded its powerful technology with extreme care to avoid accusations of spying on Americans.
As in other areas of intelligence collection, including interrogation methods for terrorism suspects, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution, the two intelligence officials said...
Both officials said they were speaking about the internal discussions because of the significant national security and civil liberty issues involved and because they thought it was important for citizens to understand the interplay between Mr. Cheney's office and the N.S.A.
This is precisely what we have been discussing all along about the over-reaching measures advocated by Cheney, Addington, and the administration in the "war on terror."
The chickenhawks in the White House (and on the internet) constantly push positions that professional military and intelligence officers--who have spent their careers dealing with such issues--know are counterproductive.
Another case in point--the Iraq War.