Unclassified Warrantless Electronic Surviellance Report Released

The Washington Post reports on the release of the Unclassified Inspector General report on warrantless wiretapping (and other forms of electronic surveillance). [The unclassified report is here.(pdf)]

Today's report, prepared by five inspectors general from government intelligence agencies, was mandated by Congress in legislation last year that updated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to accommodate new technologies. The bulk of the review remains highly classified.

...The inspectors general from the Departments of Justice and Defense, as well as the CIA, the NSA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence, said they reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed more than 200 people in connection with the report, including Bush era officials John Negroponte, who served as director of national intelligence, National Security Agency Director Michael V. Hayden, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


The Post says few DOJ officials knew about the program. It also says:

key figures such as Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and former CIA director George Tenet declined interview requests, investigators said.

Updates to follow.

< No Bail for Ms. Hepatitis C | Saturday Morning Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Well, Donald, given that the (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Anne on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 02:43:53 PM EST
    Obama DOJ is defending that lawless behavior in the al-Haramain case, I kind of doubt there's going to be any accountability anytime soon.

    bmaz has a post on it at Marcy Wheeler's site; the link to the motion is here: al-Haramain motion.

    Here's a snip from bmaz's post:

    In early June, a critical hearing was held in front of Judge Vaughn Walker in the al-Haramain warrantless wiretapping case. As a result of that hearing, Judge Walker entered an order commanding the attorney for plaintiffs al-Haramain et. al to file a motion for summary judgement. Hot off the press, the motion was filed minutes ago, and it is a stunning demonstration of just how disingenuous and two faced President Obama and his administration have been on the seminal issues of warrantless wiretapping, protection of Constitutional rights, transparency and accountability.

    The first words in the main body of the motion are a stark reminder to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of the very words and promises they have spoken in the past on the issue of illegal wiretapping:

    "Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional."
    President Barack Obama, December 20, 2007

    "We owe the American people a reckoning."
    Attorney General Eric Holder, June 13, 2008

    Pretty harsh way to start that motion, but deserved, in my opinion.

    It's NOT "wiretapping" (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by lambert on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 05:36:27 PM EST
    Please correct the headline and the text.

    Wiretapping is for telephones. That's why the report itself uses the words "communications" and "surveillance" throughout -- as of all Internet data, including email.

    Just because Pravda and AP make the same mistake is no reason to repeat it.


    Again, NOT wiretapping (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by lambert on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 05:53:47 PM EST
    I just skimmed it. NOT wiretapping. Page 42:

    The collection activities pursued under PSP [the President's Surveillance Program], and under FISA following the PSP's transition to that authority involved unprecedented collection activities.

    Wiretapping is hardly an "unprecedented collection activity." Please correct the headline and the text. Thanks.

    I recall during the primaries last year (none / 0) (#9)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 05:45:57 PM EST
    that a commenter on one of the liberal blogs said he had been visited by the FBI for something he said in a comment...about GWB.

    Are You Old? (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 04:39:03 PM EST
    wiretap - A concealed device connected to a telephone or other communications system that allows a third party to listen or record conversations; The act of installing such a device; To install or to use such a device

    language, like a river, is moving all the time. Many young people have never even used the word telephone.

    Just like the word record store. Would you argue that the store should change the name just because all they sell are CDs?


    Feingold responds (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 10:00:46 PM EST
    Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold On the Inspectors General Report on President Bush's Warrantless Wiretapping Program
    Friday, July 10, 2009 "This valuable report highlights just how outrageous and damaging the illegal warrantless wiretapping program really was. Although more information can and should be declassified, the unclassified version of the report underscores the dangers of operating a hidden, illegal program for years. It documents the internal conflicts and chaos surrounding the purported legal authorizations, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's highly misleading congressional testimony. Notably, the report calls into serious question the repeated assertions from Bush Administration officials, especially during debate over the so-called Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments Act, that stopping the program would have had catastrophic results. "This report leaves no doubt that the warrantless wiretapping program was blatantly illegal and an unconstitutional assertion of executive power. I once again call on the Obama administration and its Justice Department to withdraw the flawed legal memoranda that justified the program and that remain in effect today."

    These statements about "wiretapping" ... (none / 0) (#16)
    by cymro on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 04:09:15 PM EST
    ... just serve to reinforce the mistaken idea that this illegal spying is limited to tapping phones.

    Really? (none / 0) (#17)
    by squeaky on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 04:32:34 PM EST
    I think that most people think internet, email, cell phones, etc, and even bugs, when the phrase illegal wiretapping is used.

    Only those who may still have only a land line telephone as their link to the world, and stuck in a time warp vintage Nixon era, would think that illegal wiretapping was only about the telephone.


    The statutes distinguish (none / 0) (#19)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 11:20:22 PM EST
    Applying the Wiretap Act to Online Communications after United States v. Councilman Jessica Belskis 2 Shidler J. L. Com. & Tech. 18 (Apr. 14, 2006)
    Title I, the Wiretap Act, prohibits anyone from "intentionally intercept[ing] or endeavor[ing] to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication." Second, the Act requires presence of a "wire, oral, or electronic communication."16 These elements are separately defined by the Act. For example, "electronic communication" is defined as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photooptical system that affects interstate or foreign commerce."

    "What most people think" not at issue (none / 0) (#21)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:18:57 PM EST
    If thinking is what you can be said to be doing here, squeaky.

    It's a question of what's right, as the commenter below points out. And a blog that's devoted to "coverage of crime-related political and injustice news" ought to get the legal niceties right, eh?


    Wow That's Nasty (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:56:02 PM EST
    Certainly one could say that your thoughtless comment reflects deep seated anger more than anything else. Not good for your heart.

    Most know that wiretapping includes other electronic surveillance these days. Considering the steam you generated from trying to help TL be correct, your technicality seems rather irrelevant, to me.



    Just a little pushback (none / 0) (#24)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 01:23:32 PM EST
    When you start a comment with "Are you old" then you ought to be prepared for a little nastiness, don't you think?

    No (none / 0) (#29)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:02:09 PM EST
    I was truly perplexed by your repeated insistence that Jeralyn correct her post.

    It occurred to me that the term has a legal meaning and a colloquial meaning. Are you old was in no way meant as in insult, it was a rhetorical way to make a point.

    Really many of my best friends are old, and that has been true my whole life. I am old or moving in that direction..  Some have of late called me an old codger..

    No insult was intended. Really I do not see why you would take it as an insult.


    "Some my best friends are old" (none / 0) (#34)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:41:13 PM EST
    Parody, right? Irony?

    Combo (none / 0) (#36)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:47:16 PM EST
    Irony, parody, making fun of myself, and a true personal fact.

    Again, please correct the headline and the body (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by lambert on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 08:22:58 AM EST
    It's NOT "wiretapping"! Latest from AP:

    The only piece of the intelligence-gathering operation acknowledged by the Bush White House was the wiretapping-without-warrants effort. The administration acknowledged in 2005 that it had allowed the National Security Agency to intercept international communications that passed through U.S. cables without seeking court orders.

    Please, can we not re-inforce the initial Bush administration stonewallling? The headline and the body are simply inaccurate. Please correct them!

    "The new Report on illegal spying..." (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by lambert on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 02:29:29 PM EST
    Is what Glenn wrote in his headline. Here's the lead:

    The Bush-era torture regime might have been that administration's most flamboyant act of criminality, but its illegal NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (and other still-unknown surveillance programs) has always been the clearest.  

    NOT wiretapping...

    it's warrantless electronic surveillance (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:42:30 PM EST
    which includes but is not limited to wiretapping.

    Right (none / 0) (#25)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 01:25:49 PM EST
    And since the headline states only wiretapping, as does the lead, both are at best not accurate. Yes?

    It's one of those "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" things. And compounded by the fact that the initial coverage in our famously free press, after the Risen story broken, did exactly the same thing.


    Oops! (none / 0) (#26)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 01:26:23 PM EST
    Thanks for the correction! (Entered through comments, not post!)

    I wonder (none / 0) (#3)
    by eric on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 02:57:51 PM EST
    what else, besides the wiretapping, these people were doing.  The report specifically states that there was more than just one surveillance program going on.

    Spencer Ackerman notes this and quotes the report:

    We refer to other intelligence activities under the Presidential Authorizations as the "Other Intelligence Activities." The specific details of the Other Intelligence Activities remain highly classified, although the Attorney General publicly acknowledged the existence of such activities in August 2007.

    I'm always amazed at (none / 0) (#4)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:02:39 PM EST
    how many cameras are out and about. They call them red light cameras, but in many cases the fines collected go to the camera company rather than the city. Outside of residential and remote areas, the camera surveillance is astonishing.

    Yep (none / 0) (#5)
    by eric on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:04:51 PM EST
    and although people used to see a problem with all of the cameras, now they just seem to accept them.

    One good thing:  Red light cameras were ruled unconstitutional in my home state.


    Hey (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:24:01 PM EST
    My colleagues and I sit in the basement of a law firm in DC.  We use the traffic cameras (from trafficland.com) as our window - we see what the weather is like outside and if we just want to see what's happening in the world of people above ground.  We laugh and say, "look out the window".

    This is enough to start an indictment (none / 0) (#7)
    by joze46 on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:41:14 PM EST
    This is enough to start an indictment of basic war crimes against George Bush and his administration. Likely much more to also include the horrific torture crimes done here at gitmo and through out the world by the CIA.

    What jumps out at me after a brief reading is a paragraph on about page twenty eight. This to me looks like a massive cover up by the department of Justice to favor anything Bush wanted to do with out Congressional or Senate participation review, affirmation, or over sight. Clearly in violation of the core responsibility to serve the people and address the needs of the Constitution.

    This whole issue was tossed internally for years with the appearance that anyone in the Department of justice that did not fully embrace what Bush wanted would eventually be replace.

    The Deputy Attorney General James Comey advised at the get go of his confirmation his concerns and that of his predecessors John Yoo that this program violated basic Constitutional elements, such as basic notification to Congressional and Senate members. It was also pointed out that Vice president Cheney threatened Comey that "thousands" of lives are at risk. Yet they could not agree on modifications.

    What is startling and striking after one reads this report that Main Stream Media MSNBC, CNN, FOX all of hate radio, left out the reporting of this guy Comey the interviews with him and for me a bomb shell states that at this time Deputy Attorney General Comey would not reauthorize certain intelligence activities unless modified. Actually, for me, hardly ever heard of this guy Comey being talked about on the news.

    This whole secret political drama looks like something more than a terrorist tool. Really this program looks like a personal product development early warning tool designed to be secret especially for only a few in Bush's inner circle, perhaps not totally for war time efforts. Considering the trillion dollar fiasco in the Derivative market it appears Bush's friends the Arabs may have played a near and dear partnership in a controversial secret money exchange on the international market.    

    For me, if our former President George Bush in his position in good faith one would think Bush would gladly take consul, advice, or alternatives from the Senate Intelligence Committee and or the Congressional armed services Committee or his Secretary of defense, and especially the Secretary of State.

    But no, as said by Bush "he wants to decide what is best for the needs of the country in respect to national defense".

    So, one thing is clear no matter how far this war goes it will always be Bush's war, one he started and dumped on to the American public.    

    Upsidedownland (none / 0) (#13)
    by john horse on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 09:17:57 AM EST
    I think the best way to understand the Bush administration is to take what they say and understand that what they really meant was the exact opposite.  This is like the "opposite day" game that seven year olds play.

    Bush says he believed in a transparent government.  What he meant and what this wiretapping report shows is the extent that he tried to duck and hide from any oversight.  He even kept relevant officials in his own administration out of the loop.

    Bush says he believed in the rule of law.  Yet he instituted unconstitutional surveillance and torture programs (and don't get me started on his invasion of Iraq).

    Bush said that this illegal surveillance program saved lives.  However, this report shows that most of this surviellance had little connection to terrorism.

    Obama seems to believe he can fix what Bush has wrought by tinkering around the edges.  But he is wrong.  The only way to make upsidedownland right-side-up is by overturning it.

    It's not a wiretapping report... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lambert on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 02:07:40 PM EST
    ... and I give. For whatever reason, the error will not be corrected.

    Thanks for the correction! (none / 0) (#27)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 01:26:54 PM EST

    you are welcome (none / 0) (#28)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 01:38:35 PM EST
    Now you need to tell the ACLU! (smile)

    lol (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:04:45 PM EST
    the dictionary now defines wiretap in a broader way. Most know that the ACLU does not just mean tapping a land line telephone or telegraph.

    I do not think that they will feel any inclination to change their headline, as it is not confusing to most of us.


    Merriam-Webster: (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:09:58 PM EST
    That's Old (none / 0) (#32)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:18:16 PM EST
    Here is the latest:


    A concealed device connected to a telephone or other communications system that allows a third party to listen or record conversations; The act of installing such a device; To install or to use such a device



    Beating a dead horse there... (none / 0) (#33)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:35:44 PM EST
    Since Jeralyn changed the head, my substantive concerns are addressed.  Obviously, if she had thought that wiretapping and electronic surveillance were the same thing, she would not have done so.

    Do feel free, however, to forward your wiki definitions to the appropriate legal and technical forums.


    I have a new post up on the report (none / 0) (#35)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:47:15 PM EST
    which I have now figured out how to cut and paste from (the report as released was not in OCR>.)

    Hope you'll read it and give us your thoughts on John Yoo and the 4th Amendment.


    Getting PDF into linkable form... (none / 0) (#40)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 05:15:47 PM EST
    ... is a technology we really need (and you would think that advocates of open government would be releasing reports in non-proprietary data formats that can be linked to).

    I think the decay of Constitutional government is, at this point, down to Versailles as a whole, alas, and not to one party -- truly odious though John Yoo is.


    Here's another: (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:55:07 PM EST
    And another: (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:56:51 PM EST
    YOur Point? (none / 0) (#39)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 03:48:39 PM EST
    Seems obvious to me that the conventional dictionary meanings of words are behind the flow of ever changing language. It is also obvious that at the front of the change would be internet dictionaries that do not have to depend on reprinting the 35th edition before being able to make changes.

    The fact that one dictionary, that I found with a quick search (there may be others) defines wiretap in its more expanded colloquial meaning, seems entirely normal. The rest will eventually catch up.


    Let's review (none / 0) (#41)
    by lambert on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 05:26:37 PM EST
    1. I point out that wiretapping and electronic surveillance are not the same thing (neither technically nor in law) and that therefore the original headline gives a false impression of the nature of the IG report.

    2. Jeralyn corrects the headline to reflect the legal and technical reality,

    3. squeaky continues to insist that language is ever changing.

    Since this is a family blog, here's a phrase I think readers might find useful. content-free:
    Used of a message that adds nothing to the recipient's knowledge. Though this adjective is sometimes applied to flamage, it more usually connotes derision for communication styles that exalt form over substance or are centered on concerns irrelevant to the subject ostensibly at hand. Perhaps most used with reference to speeches by company presidents and other professional manipulators

    Glad to provide the link. Please don't even think of thanking me.


    OK (none / 0) (#42)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 06:17:14 PM EST
    Check mate..