From Newsweek: “I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation.”
Sealed July ’03 Letter: Rockefeller Warned of ‘Profound Oversight Issues’ With Warrantless Spying Program
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, first learned of the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spying program on July 17, 2003.
That day, he wrote a letter to the White House (it was handwritten, since he couldn’t share details about the program with his staff). Rockefeller warned of “profound oversight issues,” and said he was “unable to evaluate, much less endorse these activities.”
Today, Rockefeller released that sealed letter, and criticized the administration for claiming that its briefings with members of Congress on the spying program constituted anything resembling “oversight”:
For the last few days, I have witnessed the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General repeatedly misrepresent the facts.
The record needs to be set clear that the Administration never afforded members briefed on the program an opportunity to either approve or disapprove the NSA program. The limited members who were told of the program were prohibited by the Administration from sharing any information about it with our colleagues, including other members of the Intelligence Committees.
Below, an excerpt of the original letter he wrote in 2003:
You can read the full letter here.
During a prime time press conference in April 2004, President Bush was asked to name one mistake he had made since taking office and explain what he had learned from it. He couldn’t do it. (We gave him 100 to choose from.)
“Maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one,” he said at the time. But that’s clearly not the problem. Bush was asked the same question today. A year and a half later, he still couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge a mistake.
See for yourself:
For his part, Bush did come quite close to acknowledging an error: he admitted preparing Iraq’s Army more than its civilian security forces. But he quickly clarified that he was merely adjusting his tactics “to meet the changing tactics of an enemy.”
Full transcript below: Read more
We’re working out some technical difficulties.
UPDATE [3:57 PM ET]: Looks like everything’s fixed. About time.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that, while under oath during his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misled the Congress about issues related to Bush’s secret domestic spying program.
Gonzales said, “[I]t is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” In fact, Gonzales had personally authorized the warrantless domestic spying program, which did just that.
Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency, also misled Congress. He told a committee investigating the 9/11 attacks that any surveillance of persons in the United States was done consistent with FISA. From Hayden’s 10/17/02 testimony:
GOSS: OK, my second question, then. General Hayden, you said something about bin Laden coming across the bridge, hypothetical, of course. But I take that to mean that if bin Laden did come there would be capabilities that we have that we can use elsewhere in the world that we cannot use in the United States of America. Is that correct?
HAYDEN: Not so much capabilities, but how agilely we could apply those capabilities. The person inside the United States becomes a U.S. person under the definition provided by the FISA Act.
GOSS: Well, lets — again, I don’t want to get into details. I’m aware of the public nature of this meeting. But let’s just suppose this sniper [in the United States] is somebody we wanted to catch very badly. Could we apply all our technologies and all our capabilities and all our know how against that person? Or would that person be considered to have protection as an American citizen?
HAYDEN: That person would have protections as what the law defines as a U.S. person. And I would have no authorities to pursue it.
Actually, Hayden was pursuing U.S. persons at the direction of the President outside of the FISA statute.
Extended transcript: Read more
Vice President Cheney from tonight’s Nightline:
It’s the kind of capability [that], if we’d had before 9/11, might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11.
We had two 9/11 terrorists in San Diego prior to the attack in contact with al Qaeda sources outside the U.S. We didn’t know it. The 9/11 Commission talks about it. If we’d had this capability, then we might well have been able to stop it.
This is false and sensational. The secret surveillance program authorized by President Bush did not provide the National Security Agency any new “capability.”
The NSA “already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests.” Indeed, from 1979 to 2002, the FISA court issued 15,264 surveillance warrants. Not a single warrant application was rejected.
Nothing in the law pre-9/11 prevented the federal government from conducting surveillance operations on terrorists. Cheney simply can’t resist using that tragedy to shield himself from criticism.
at 10:30 AM.