2009 July 10

Five Federal Inspectors General Critique Bush Administration Terrorism Policies


The Inspectors General of five federal agencies on this day released an unclassified version of their report on the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP). The five were the Inspector Generals of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Even this unclassified report documented — and provided much detailed documentation — what had been widely believed and only partly documented: that the George W. Bush administration’s President’s Surveillance Program was couched in excessive secrecy and based on dubious claims of legality.

When told after terrorists attacked the U.S., on September 11, 2001, that the National Security Agency (NSA) could not do more under existing law, for example, President Bush issued a secret order directing the NSA to undertake “a number of new, highly classified intelligence activities.” In a memo in early November 2011, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo argued that limiting NSA activities to the terms of the 1978 FISA law would be a violation of the president’s authority as Commander-in-Chief under the Constitution. Yoo made the same argument in other documents, but his interpretation has since been rejected as legally flawed. Yoo’s memo did not mention the important 1952 Youngstown case, which was universally regarded as setting forth the basic framework regarding the scope of presidential power (June 2, 1952).

The report released on this day provided specific documentation of Yoo’s successor, Jack Goldsmith, finding key Office of Legal Counsel memos legally flawed and deciding to withdraw them. Withdrawal of the memos precipitated a now-notorious incident where White House officials tried to coerce the Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was then-hospitalized, into reauthorizing the intelligence program that Goldsmith’s action blocked (see March 10, 2004). In response, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other high-level Justice Department officials threatened to resign, President Bush backed down and Goldsmith prevailed. The report of the Inspectors General of both the FBI and the CIA concluded that the information from the PSP was both tightly controlled and compartmentalized and that, furthermore, it had only limited value in the administration’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Read the reporthttp://www.justice.gov/oig/special/s0907.pdf

Learn about Edward Snowden’s expose of NSA spying: Luke Harding, The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (2014)

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture by the CIA: http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf





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