January 4, 2006


Files Say Agency Initiated Growth of Spying Effort (ERIC LICHTBLAU and SCOTT SHANE, 1/04/06, NY Times)

The National Security Agency acted on its own authority, without a formal directive from President Bush, to expand its domestic surveillance operations in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed. [...]

The answer, General Hayden suggested in his response to Ms. Pelosi a week later, was that it had not. "In my briefing," he wrote, "I was attempting to emphasize that I used my authorities to adjust N.S.A.'s collection and reporting."

It is not clear whether General Hayden referred at the briefing to the idea of warrantless eavesdropping. Parts of the letters from Ms. Pelosi and General Hayden concerning other specific aspects of the spy agency's domestic operation were blacked out because they remain classified. But officials familiar with the uncensored letters said they referred to other aspects of the domestic eavesdropping program.

Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order set guidelines for the collection of intelligence, including by the N.S.A.

"He had authority under E.O. 12333 that had been given to him, and he briefed Congress on what he did under those authorities," said Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Beyond that, we can't get into details of what was done."

In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order specifically authorizing the security agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international communications of Americans inside the United States who the agency believed were connected to Al Qaeda.

You'd think the agency's name would be a dead giveaway as to what they think their job is, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 4, 2006 9:43 AM

Wait a sec--in early October 2001 Pelosi was already complaining about increased surveillance? One month after Sep 11? Well before the Taliban fell? I'm confused--does the NYT think this is a hit piece on the NSA, or on the deep unseriousness of the Democrats?

Posted by: b at January 4, 2006 10:43 AM

b. Nice sound byte for an ad next fall.

Award the General a medal for initiative and have GWB do so in the White House.

Posted by: Genecis at January 4, 2006 11:23 AM