Report: Bush program extended beyond wiretapping
By PAMELA HESS Ė 1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AP) ó The Bush administration authorized secret surveillance activities that still have not been made public, according to a new government report that questions the legal basis for the unprecedented anti-terrorism program.
It's unclear how much valuable intelligence was yielded by the surveillance program started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to the unclassified summary of reports by five inspectors general. ...
President George W. Bush authorized other secret intelligence activities ó which have yet to become public ó even as he was launching the massive warrentless wiretapping program, the summary said. It describes the entire program as the "President's Surveillance Program."
The report describes the program as unprecedented and raises questions about the legal grounding used for its creation. It also says the intelligence agencies' continued retention and use of the information collected under the program should be carefully monitored.
Many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap in intelligence. Others, including FBI, CIA and National Counterterrorism Center analysts, said intelligence gathered by traditional means was often more specific and timely, according to the report. (italics mine)
The Bush White House acknowledged in 2005 that it allowed the National Security Agency to intercept international communications that passed through U.S. cables without court orders.
The IG report said an unnamed White House official inserted a paragraph into the first threat assessment prepared by the CIA after the Sept. 11 attacks, which was used to justify the extraordinary intelligence measures.
The paragraph said that the "individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States," according to the report. It also said that the president should authorize the NSA to conduct the surveillance activities.
The Bush White House pulled in a great quantity of information far beyond the warrantless wiretapping previously acknowledged, the IGs reported. They questioned the legal basis for the effort but shielded almost all details on grounds they're still too secret to reveal.
The report, mandated by Congress last year and delivered to lawmakers Friday, also says it's unclear how much valuable intelligence the program has yielded.
On the subject of oversight, the report particularly criticizes John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general who wrote legal memos defending the policy. His boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, was not aware until March 2004 of the exact nature of the intelligence operations beyond wiretapping that he had been approving for the previous two and a half years, the report says.
The report, compiled by five inspectors general, refers to "unprecedented collection activities" by U.S. intelligence agencies under an executive order signed by Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Just what those activities involved remains classified, but the IGs pointedly say that any continued use of the secret programs must be "carefully monitored."
Most of the intelligence leads generated under what was known as the "President's Surveillance Program" did not have any connection to terrorism, the report said. But FBI agents told the authors that the "mere possibility of the leads producing useful information made investigating the leads worthwhile."
And Bush personally did this:
Ashcroft hospital bedside meeting
At approximately 7:00 p.m., Comey learned that Gonzales and Card were on their way to the hospital to see Ashcroft. He relayed this information to FBI Director Mueller, and told him that Ashcroft was in no condition to receive guests, much less make a decision about whether to recertify the PSP. Philbin said he was leaving work that evening when he received a call from Comey, who told Philbin that he needed to get to the hospital right away and to call Goldsmith and tell him what was happening.
Comey recalled that he ran up the stairs with his security detail to Ashcroft's floor, and he entered Ashcroft's room, which he described as darkened, and found Ashcroft lying in bed and his wife standing by his side. Comey said he began speaking to Ashcroft, and that it was not clear that Ashcroft could focus and that he "seemed pretty bad off." Goldsmith and Philbin arrived at the hospital within a few minutes of each other, and met with Comey in an adjacent room. Comey, Goldsmith, and Philbin later entered Ashcroft's room and, according to Goldsmith's notes, Comey and the others advised Ashcroft "not to sign anything."
When Gonzales and Card arrived, they entered Ashcroft's hospital room and stood across from Mrs. Ashcroft at the head of the bed, with Comey, Goldsmith, and Philbin behind them. Gonzales told the DOJ OIG that he carried with him in a manila envelope the March 11, 2004, Presidential authorization for Ashcroft to sign. According to Philbin, Gonzales first asked Ashcroft how he was feeling and Ashcroft replied, "Not well." Gonzales then said words to the effect, "You know, there's a reauthorization that has to be renewed ...."
Comey testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that at this point Ashcroft told Gonzales and Card "in very strong terms" about his legal concerns with the PSP, which Comey testified Ashcroft drew from his meeting with Comey about the program a week earlier. Comey testified that Ashcroft next stated: " 'But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the Attorney General. There is the Attorney General,' and he pointed to me Ė I was just to his left. The two men [Gonzales and Card] did not acknowledge me; they turned and walked from the room."
Gonzales, subsequently summoned Comey to the White House, and he brought United States Solicitor General Theodore Olson with him as a witness. Andy Card was also present for this meeting which took place later that evening. Gonzales told the DOJ OIG that little more was achieved at this meeting other than a general acknowledgment that a "situation" continued to exist because of the disagreement between DOJ and the White House regarding legal authorization for the program. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President%27s_Surveillance_Program
And from the document:
According to notes from Ashcroft's FBI security detail, at 6:20 PM that evening Card called the hospital and spoke with an agent in Ashcroft's security detail, advising him that President Bush would be calling shortly to speak with Ashcroft. Ashcroft's wife told the agent that Ashcroft would not accept the call. Ten minutes later, the agent called Ashcroft's Chief of Staff David Ayres at DOJ to request that Ayres speak with Card about the President's intention to call Ashcroft. The agent conveyed to Ayres Mrs. Ashcroft's desire that no calls be made to Ashcroft for another day or two. However, at 6:5 PM, Card and the President called the hospital and, according to the agent's notes, "insisted on speaking [with Attorney General Ashcroft]." According to the agent's notes, Mrs. Ashcroft took the call from Card and the President and was informed that Gonzales and Card were coming to the hospital to see Ashcroft regarding a matter involving national security.
and let's not forget Darth Vader:
Cheney told CIA to withhold information: report
Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:44pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA withheld information about a secret counter-terrorism program from Congress for eight years on orders from former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, the New York Times said on Saturday.
Citing two unidentified sources, the newspaper said Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta disclosed Cheney's involvement in closed briefings to congressional intelligence committees late last month.
Panetta, who was named to head the agency earlier this year by President Barack Obama, ended the program, which remains secret, when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, the Times said.
Intelligence and congressional officials told the newspaper the agency began the program after the September 11 attacks and said it never became operational and did not involve CIA interrogation programs or domestic intelligence activities.
The newspaper said its efforts to reach Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.
Asked about the Times report, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said it was not the agency's practice to discuss classified briefings.
"When a CIA unit brought this matter to Director Panetta's attention, it was with the recommendation that it be shared appropriately with Congress. That was also his view, and he took swift, decisive action to put it into effect," Gimigliano said, declining to comment further.
Cheney was a key advocate in the Bush administration of using controversial interrogation methods such as waterboarding on terrorism suspects and has emerged as a leading Republican critic of Obama's national security policies.
Panetta has vowed not to allow coercive interrogation practices, secret prisons or the transfer of terrorist suspects to countries that may use torture, a pledge seen as a break with the agency's policies under President George W. Bush.