Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden appeared yesterday on Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week. On both programs, he was asked whether President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program was being used to spy on individuals with no connection to terrorism.
Both of Hayden’s responses were missing an important word — “No.” Instead, Hayden claimed that NSA officials “don’t have the time” to spy on innocent Americans:
ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The concern, of course, is that it’s going to capture Americans that have nothing to do with al Qaeda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me try to give you a hypothetical. I went to Pakistan after 9/11. I interviewed a Taliban representative. If, after that interview, that person calls me, am I captured?
HAYDEN: I can’t get into operational details, but the way we do this is based on the people most knowledgeable of al Qaeda, its communications, its intentions, its tactics, techniques and procedures. And so we really don’t have the time or the resources, the linguists, to linger, to go after things that aren’t going to protect the homeland.
FOX’s MIKE WALLACE: Let me ask another question which I’m sure concerns a lot of people. Can you assure Americans that there is no spying on political opponents or political critics of the Bush administration?
HAYDEN: Chris, this is focused on al Qaeda. The only justification we have to undertake this program is to detect and prevent attacks against the United States. We don’t have the time or the lawful authority to do anything except that.
Multiple news reports have shown that the program was used to spy on thousands of innocent Americans with no ties to al Qaeda, and the Bush administration has been caught spying on political opponents on multiple occassions.
Bush officials cannot be allowed to spin this question. The burden is on them to show that the program has not been used to spy on journalists or political opponents.
UPDATE: Via MyDD, Hayden has dodged this question before:
Gen. Michael Hayden refused to answer question about spying on political enemies at National Press Club. At a public appearance, Bush’s pointman in the Office of National Intelligence was asked if the NSA was wiretapping Bush’s political enemies. When Hayden dodged the question, the questioner repeated, “No, I asked, are you targeting us and people who politically oppose the Bush government, the Bush administration? Not a fishing net, but are you targeting specifically political opponents of the Bush administration?” Hayden looked at the questioner, and after a silence called on a different questioner. (Hayden National Press Club remarks, 1/23/06) (video) (audio)