Friday, December 16, 2005

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts

This story on the NSA's secret wiretappings has been coming up quickly through the blogosphere now. But there's an interesting twist. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

Much of this part of the story is about details of the secret NSA wiretaps on Americans within the US, but now we come to a real bombshell:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

The New York Times sat on this story for a year. Had they published this story during last year's presidential election, it could have been a huge blow to the Bush presidential campaign. President Bush's campaign pitch was not to change horses mid-stream regarding the Iraq war. In other words, don't change presidents in mid-war. There were also plenty of Republican charges and "Swift-Boat" attacks on John Kerry as being soft on terrorists and "unpatriotic." What do you think would have happened, had the Times published this story last year? What do you think the Kerry campaign would have done with this story of the Bush White House trampling the Constitution and illegally spying on domestic Americans? Would the American public have voted for Bush, knowing that he'd allow the NSA to spy on them at home?


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