EXCLUSIVE: Former Sen. Intel Chair Reports White House Misled About Wiretap Briefings

grahamOne of the long-standing deceptions involved with the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program is the White House claim that they fully briefed Congress prior to conducting these activities.

After the domestic surveillance program was revealed in 2005, former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham (D-FL) said that White House briefings that he attended in the Vice President’s office failed to disclose that the administration was spying on Americans:

There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to…begin unwarranted, illegal — and I think unconstitutional — eavesdropping on American citizens.

Shortly thereafter, Cheney fired back at Graham, arguing, “Well that’s not true. [Graham] knew.” The White House accused him of “misremembering the briefings.”

In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Sen. Graham told us that, after the controversy erupted in late 2005, the White House provided him with dates when they alleged Graham had been briefed. Graham said he consulted his famous spiral bound notebooks and determined he had not been briefed on these dates:

When I got those dates, I went back to my notebooks and checked and found that on most of the dates there were no meetings held. In fact, in several of them, I wasn’t in Washington when the meetings were supposed to have taken place. So I stand by what I said.

Listen to it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/bgtp.320.40.flv]

Graham said the White House ultimately acknowledged “we had the wrong dates.” But the deception didn’t end there.

After our interview with Graham, the AP reported a four-page memo authored by then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte which claimed to assert dates on which members of Congress were briefed about the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” The document alleged that Graham was briefed on four dates: October 25, 2001; November 14, 2001; April 10, 2002; and July 8, 2002.

ThinkProgress went back to Graham and asked if he could verify that he was briefed on those dates. Graham said that on two of the dates (10/25/01 and 4/10/02), there were no meetings. On two others (11/14/01 and 7/8/02), he did attend White House meetings, but he stands by his earlier statements that he was never informed about domestic surveillance.

Graham wryly noted, “The White House needs to hire itself an archivist.” His revelations should raise greater concerns about the information the White House has released claiming that members of Congress were fully briefed on the wiretapping program.