This morning, Condoleezza Rice defended the NSA evesdropping program by arguing that congressional leaders — specifically “leaders of the relevant oversight intelligence committees” — had been briefed on the activities.
RICE: It’s been reviewed not just by the White House counsel but by the lawyers of the Justice Department and by the lawyers of the NSA, the National Security Agency, and by the Inspector General of the National Security Agency, and it has to be reauthorized every 45 days. And the Congress, the congressional leaders, including —
RUSSERT: Those are administration lawyers. Why not go to an objective court?
RICE: — including leaders of the relevant oversight intelligence committees have been briefed on this.
This is apparently not true. At the time the program was initiated, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL). On Friday’s “Nightline,” Graham made clear he had never once been briefed by the administration about the program:
There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to…begin unwarranted, illegal “” and I think unconstitutional “” eavesdropping on American citizens.
Read the full Graham transcript:
ABC: You were Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time the President signed this executive order. Vice President Cheney met with congressional leaders — I’m sure you were among them in 2002, is that correct?
GRAHAM: There was such a meeting. And the issue, then, was whether we could intercept foreign communications when they transited through U.S. communication sites. The assumption was that if we did that, we would do it pursuant to the law, the law that regulates the surveillance of national security issues. And there was no suggestion that we were going to begin eavesdropping on United States citizens without following the full law.
ABC: You’re saying you were not briefed as the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee at the point the President signed this?
GRAHAM: I was briefed. There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to use that as the subterfuge to begin unwarranted, illegal — and I think unconstitutional — eavesdropping on American citizens.
ABC: So if the administration says that you were informed about this action, they would not be telling the truth?
GRAHAM: We were not informed that this would be a pretense for using warrantless searchs to listen in to the private conversations of United States citizens.
ABC: Sounds like you were saying you were lied to.
GRAHAM: I think there has been a selective use of information to build a case that was already determined, rather than using intelligence for its intended purpose, which is to improve the decision-making process on a judgment that has not yet been determined.