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NYT Claims Cheney Sought To Tap US Calls

Ah, more anonymous sourcery from the "Paper Of Treason," the New York Times:

Cheney Pushed U.S. to Widen Eavesdropping

By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LICHTBLAU
May 14, 2006

WASHINGTON, May 13 — 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 warrantless eavesdropping, 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.

The N.S.A.’s position ultimately prevailed. Details have not emerged publicly of how the director of the agency at the time, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits.

Whatever the internal deliberations, General Hayden was the program’s overseer and has become its chief salesman. He is certain to face questions about his role when he appears at a Senate hearing next week on his nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Criticism of the surveillance program flared again this week with the disclosure that N.S.A. had collected the phone records of millions of Americans in an effort to track terror suspects.

By several accounts, General Hayden, a 61-year-old Air Force officer who left the agency in April last year to become principal deputy director of national intelligence, was the man in the middle as President Bush demanded that intelligence agencies act urgently to stop future attacks.

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 was 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 suspected terrorists, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution, the two intelligence officials said.

If people suspected of links to Al Qaeda made calls inside the United States, the vice president and Mr. Addington thought eavesdropping without warrants "could be done and should be done," one of them said.

He added: "That’s not what the N.S.A. lawyers think."

The other official said there was "a very healthy debate" over the issue. The vice president’s staff was "pushing and pushing, and it was up to the N.S.A. lawyers to draw a line and say absolutely not."

Both officials said they were speaking publicly about the internal discussion because of the importance of the national security and civil liberty issues involved and because the interplay between Mr. Cheney’s office and the intelligence agencies is usually hidden from public view. Both spoke favorably of General Hayden; one expressed no view on his nomination for the C.I.A. job, and the other was interviewed by The New York Times weeks before President Bush selected him.

Mr. Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride, declined to discuss the deliberations about the classified program.

"As the administration, including the vice president, has said, this is terrorist surveillance, not domestic surveillance," Ms. McBride said. "The vice president has explained this wartime measure is limited in scope and conducted in a lawful way that safeguards our civil liberties."

Spokespeople for the N.S.A. and for General Hayden declined to comment.

Even with the N.S.A. lawyers’ reported success in narrowing the program, critics say that it is nonetheless illegal and that it should have never been created. For the first time since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978, the N.S.A. was targeting Americans and others inside the country for eavesdropping without warrants.

The spying that would become such a divisive issue for the White House and for General Hayden grew out of a meeting days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush gathered his senior intelligence aides to brainstorm about ways to head off another attack.

"Is there anything more we could be doing, given the current laws?" the president later recalled asking.

General Hayden stepped forward. "There is," he said, according to Mr. Bush’s recounting of the conversation in March during a town-hall-style meeting in Cleveland.

By all accounts, General Hayden was the principal designer of the plan. He saw the opportunity to use the N.S.A.’s enormous technological capabilities by loosening restrictions on the agency’s operations inside the United States.

For his part, Mr. Cheney helped justify the program with an expansive theory of presidential power, which he explained to traveling reporters a few days after The Times first reported on the program in December.

Mr. Cheney traced his views to his service as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford in the 1970’s, when post-Watergate reforms, which included the FISA law, "served to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in a national security area."

Senior intelligence officials outside the N.S.A. who discussed the matter in late 2001 with General Hayden said he accepted the White House and Justice Department argument that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to approve such eavesdropping.

"Hayden was no cowboy on this," said another former intelligence official who was granted anonymity because the program remains classified. "He was a stickler for staying within the framework laid out and making sure it was legal, and I think he believed that it was."

The official said General Hayden appeared particularly concerned about ensuring that one end of each conversation was outside the United States.

But critics of the program say the law does not allow spying on a caller in the United States without a warrant, period — no matter whether the call is domestic or international. "Both would violate FISA," said Nancy Libin, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group.

Ms. Libin said limiting the warrantless intercepts to international calls "may have been a political calculation, because it sounds more reassuring."

Despite the legal technicalities, for employees of the N.S.A., whose mission is foreign intelligence, avoiding purely domestic appears to have been crucial.

One indication that the restriction to international communications was dictated by more than legal considerations came at a House hearing last month. Asked whether the president had the authority to order eavesdropping without a warrant on purely domestic communications, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales replied, "I’m not going to rule it out."

Despite the decision to target only international calls and e-mail messages, some domestic traffic was picked up inadvertently because of difficulties posed by cell phone and e-mail technology in determining whether a user is on American soil, as The Times reported last year.

And one government official, who had access to intelligence from the intercepts and was granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, believes that some of the purely domestic eavesdropping in the program’s early phase was intentional. No other officials have made that claim.

President Bush and other officials have denied that the program monitors any domestic calls. They have, however, generally stated their comments in the present tense, leaving open the question of whether domestic calls may have been captured before the program’s rules were fully established.

After the program started, General Hayden was the one who briefed members of Congress on it and who later tried to dissuade The Times from reporting its existence.

When the newspaper published its first article on the program last December, General Hayden found himself on the defensive. He had often insisted in interviews and public testimony that the N.S.A. always followed laws protecting Americans’ privacy. As the program’s disclosure provoked an outcry, he had to square those assurances with the fact that what the administration called the Terrorist Surveillance Program appeared to violate the FISA statute.

Nonetheless, General Hayden took on an extraordinary role in explaining and defending the program. He appeared at the White House alongside Mr. Gonzales, spoke on television and gave an impassioned speech at the National Press Club in January.

Some of the program’s critics have found his prominence in defending what amounts to a controversial presidential policy inappropriate, but General Hayden seems determined to stand up for the agency’s conduct — and his own.

In the press club speech, General Hayden recounted his remarks to N.S.A. employees two days after the Sept. 11 attacks: "We are going to keep America free by making Americans feel safe again."

He said that the standards for what represented a "reasonable" intrusion into Americans’ privacy had changed "as smoke billowed from two American cities and a Pennsylvania farm field."

"We acted accordingly," he said.

In the speech, General Hayden hinted at the internal discussion of the proper limits of the N.S.A. program. Although he did not mention Mr. Cheney or his staff, he said the decision to limit the eavesdropping to international phone calls and e-mail messages was "one of the decisions that had been made collectively."

"Certainly, I personally support it," he said.

This story is simply laughable.

If Cheney wanted "electronic surveillance" of communications that began and terminated in the US he would have gone to the FBI. The FBI is not proscribed by law from collecting against US citizens the way the intel agencies are.

And, if time was of the essence, Cheney or the FBI could have gotten the okay from the Attorney General to proceed without a warrant, as is specified in the FISA and which has been permitted by the Supreme Court. (And just like so many other administrations have done before.)

Wouldn’t Cheney know of this? And, if by some bizarre lapse he didn’t, wouldn’t the folks at NSA have told him that this was the FBI’s bailiwick?

And all the talk about Hayden being the program’s "chief salesman." Just who did he have to sell the program to? The President told him he wanted this done, and he set about doing it. There was no selling involved.

This article reeks to high heaven. But its point isn’t to report any pertinent facts. Its purpose is to smear Cheney, Bush and now Hayden with the hot button word "wiretapping."

Just like their photos featuring General Hayden with microphones are meant to subliminally fix in the minds of the great unwashed that he is eavesdropping on them.

This has been a relentless campaign of The Times for six months now.

The Solons of 43rd Street really want to overthrow our twice elected government. And they are perfectly willing to leak secrets vital to our national security, or even just make up stories out of whole cloth to do so.

In fact, The Times does that just about every day.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, May 13th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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