Illegal NSA Surveillance of Americans: Secret Authorizations Granted by Bush and Obama
By Eric Zuesse
May 15, 2014
The May 13th PBS “Frontline” documents that on 4 October 2001, President George W. Bush signed a secret authorization for the NSA to see the “metadata” (the to-whom, and from-whom) records for all phone calls, and also “a lot of content of phone calls. They’re actually recording the voices — not for all of our calls, but for a lot of U.S. telephone calls.”
Titled “United States of Secrets,” this documentary reports that only about a half-dozen people were informed of this operation, which was called “the Program.” NSA chief Michael Hayden was informed of it, and he supported it. Attorney General John Ashcroft was informed of it, but he opposed it as being illegal, a direct violation of the 4th Amendment, and also possibly of the 1st Amendment. The Justice Department was sidelined from it. President Bush’s order was drafted not by the President’s lawyer, Alberto Gonzales (though he supported it), but by David Addington, VP Dick Cheney’s Legal Counsel, who was not so much asked whether it was Constitutional, as he was asked to come up with an argument for its being Constitutional, even if only a fig-leaf argument — which it turned out to be. Cheney actually ran the country, and Bush rubber-stamped whatever came out of Cheney’s office.
Within 30 minutes after the President signing the order, Addington placed it into his office safe, and he showed it to very few people, only on a need-to-know basis.
President Bush is shown as saying to the public, “Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” And: “It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland because we value the Constitution.” These statements were simply lies from him, and there was no “court order” for anything in “the Program.” For a long time, the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court wasn’t even informed about the existence of “the Program.” So: it didn’t even have FISA Court authorization.