Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NYT: "Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show" (Eric Lichtblau & Scott Shane)

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.
Ms. Pelosi's letter, which was declassified at her request, showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency's domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.
The letter from Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, also suggested that the security agency, whose mission is to eavesdrop on foreign communications, moved immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks to identify terror suspects at home by loosening restrictions on domestic eavesdropping.
The congresswoman wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then head of the N.S.A., to express her concerns after she and other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees received a classified briefing from General Hayden on Oct. 1, 2001, about the agency's operations.

The above is from Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane's "Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show" in this morning's New York Times. How did the NSA have the power to make the changes? According to administration spokespeople an executive order ( Executive Order 12333) Reagan signed allowed for it to happen. I know all presidents rely on those executive orders and think they override the Constitution, but they don't. At best, it's "an order" by its very nature, it's not a law. No president can declare a law. Congress is the law making body.

But that's today's spin from the White House: "Reagan signed an executive order and that gave us permission!" (Did Yoo discover that order at the time or did someone, Yoo?, think of it as the illegal activity continued to hound Bully Boy?)

From the article:

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.

Again, executive orders (which are utilized far too often) lack Congressional oversight and are not laws. They are orders. And if they conflict with the Constitution, those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution should refuse to follow them (or they're breaking their oath). There's no oath to follow the Bully Boy. At least no public one.

But this administration has been filled with people (Colin Powell, for instance) who saw the Bully Boy as the nation. No president is the nation. The people are the nation and when the presidency turns against the people, it has turned against the nation.

Noting last night's entry, Josh steers us to more history, Rick Lyman's "Frank Wilkinson, Defiant Figure of Red Scare, Dies at 91:"

Frank Wilkinson, a Los Angeles housing official who lost his job in the Red Scare of the early 1950's and later became one of the last two people jailed for refusing to tell the House Un-American Activities Committee whether he was a Communist, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 91.
[. . .]
But Mr. Wilkinson was not finished with the federal government. When he discovered, in 1986, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been compiling files on him, he filed a Freedom of Information Act request for their release.
He was sent 4,500 documents. But he sued for more, and the next year the F.B.I. released an additional 30,000 documents, and then 70,000 two years later. Eventually, there were 132,000 documents covering 38 years of surveillance, including detailed reports of Mr. Wilkinson's travel arrangements and speaking schedules, and vague and mysterious accusations of an assassination attempt against Mr. Wilkinson in 1964.
A federal judge ordered the F.B.I. to stop spying on Mr. Wilkinson and to never do it again.

Brandon and Cindy both saw the same article they wanted to note. We'll note Cindy's excerpt here and Brandon's in the next entry. From Norman Solomon's "Media New Year's Resolutions for 2006" (Common Dreams):

Daily newspaper editors:
Just about every paper has a "Business" section, where the focus is on CEOs, company managers, profit reports and big-time investors. But a lot more readers are working people -- and a daily "Labor" section would be a welcome addition to the newsprint mix.
[. . .]

Top editors at the New York Times:
Lately, you've had staggering impacts on history with acts of commission and omission. First you put bogus reports about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction on front pages. Then, after helping to start a war, for more than a year you held onto vital information about domestic spying by the National Security Agency before publishing it. Now, try to develop institutional remorse for jettisoning basic journalistic principles to the benefit of the Bush administration.

Rod gives us the heads up to today's Democracy Now!:

An in-depth look at the growing scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Earlier today Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. He has now agreed to cooperate in a federal investigation that threatens to take down many members of Congress.

The e-mail address for this site is