Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Paging Dr. Evil
Dick Cheney merits two headlines from the House of Lichtblau/Risen today. First, "sources" place him at the center of the expanding Bush domestic spying regime (could this be FOH -- Friends of Hayden -- seeking to clear their guy's path to CIA stewardship?) Either way, the narrative of Cheney as Nixon redux is as potent as ever. First up, Eric Lichtlau (you KNOW they're wiretapping this guy) and Scott Shane report for the Grey Lady that:
In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.

But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.

The N.S.A.'s position ultimately prevailed. But just how Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the agency at the time, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits is not yet clear.

As the program's overseer and chief salesman, General Hayden is certain to face questions about his role when he appears at a Senate hearing next week on his nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Criticism of the surveillance program, which some lawmakers say is illegal, flared again this week with the disclosure that the N.S.A. had collected the phone records of millions of Americans in an effort to track terrorism suspects.

By several accounts, including those of the two officials, General Hayden, a 61-year-old Air Force officer who left the agency last year to become principal deputy director of national intelligence, was the man in the middle as President Bush demanded that intelligence agencies act urgently to stop future attacks.

On one side was a strong-willed vice president and his longtime legal adviser, David S. Addington, who believed that the Constitution permitted spy agencies to take sweeping measures to defend the country. Later, Mr. Cheney would personally arrange tightly controlled briefings on the program for select members of Congress.

On the other side were some lawyers and officials at the largest American intelligence agency, which was battered by eavesdropping scandals in the 1970's and has since wielded its powerful technology with extreme care to avoid accusations of spying on Americans.

As in other areas of intelligence collection, including interrogation methods for terrorism suspects, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution, the two intelligence officials said.

If people suspected of links to Al Qaeda made calls inside the United States, the vice president and Mr. Addington thought eavesdropping without warrants "could be done and should be done," one of them said.

He added: "That's not what the N.S.A. lawyers think."

The other official said there was "a very healthy debate" over the issue. The vice president's staff was "pushing and pushing, and it was up to the N.S.A. lawyers to draw a line and say absolutely not."

Both officials said they were speaking about the internal discussions because of the significant national security and civil liberty issues involved and because they thought it was important for citizens to understand the interplay between Mr. Cheney's office and the N.S.A. Both spoke favorably of General Hayden; one expressed no view on his nomination for the C.I.A. job, and the other was interviewed by The New York Times weeks before President Bush selected the general.

Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride, declined to discuss the deliberations about the classified program. "As the administration, including the vice president, has said, this is terrorist surveillance, not domestic surveillance," she said. "The vice president has explained this wartime measure is limited in scope and conducted in a lawful way that safeguards our civil liberties." ...

And second, Cheney's hand written notes on Joseph Wilson's NYT op-ed show that not only DID Cheney know who Wilson was -- despite his later denials -- he also knew who Wilson's wife was, and he did indeed give more than a damn.
Vice President Dick Cheney made handwritten notations on a July 2003 newspaper column that indicate he was focused on a critic of the administration's Iraq policy, according to a court filing in the C.I.A. leak case.

Mr. Cheney's notes were cited in a prosecution brief in the case against the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr. The entries were made on a copy of an Op-Ed article by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, that was published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003. The leak case involves the disclosure that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a C.I.A. officer.

"Those annotations support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op-Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant — his chief of staff — on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in his article, and on responding to those assertions," said the legal papers filed Friday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

In neat writing above the text of the column, prosecutors say, Mr. Cheney wrote: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

The legal papers do not address how prosecutors know it is Mr. Cheney's handwriting or when the notes were written. A spokesman for the vice president could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Mr. Fitzgerald wants to use the notations to support the prosecution's contention that Mr. Libby lied to investigators and a grand jury when he testified that he had learned of Ms. Wilson's existence from reporters. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby, who has been charged with perjury, learned about Ms. Wilson's role from several people, including Mr. Cheney.

Is it news that Dick Cheney spearheaded the drive to discredit Joe Wilson? No. But the new disclosure does advance the argument that Mr. Cheney is both fundamentally dishonest, and almost totally dishonorable in his conduct as vice president of the United States. Too bad Dubya doesn't have the authority to fire him.

Tags: News and politics, , NSA, domestic spying, CIA leak, Plamegate,
posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
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