Justice Dept. Probing Domestic Spying Leak
By TONI LOCY, Associated Press Writer
The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of
classified information about President Bush's secret domestic spying
The inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about
warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency
since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.
The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a
front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from
publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration
and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various
aspects of the program.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on
its own, and the president was informed of it on Friday.
"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue. The fact is
that al-Qaida's playbook is not printed on Page One and when America's
is, it has serious ramifications," Duffy told reporters in Crawford,
Texas, where Bush was spending the holidays.
Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the paper will not
comment on the investigation.
Revelation of the secret spying program unleashed a firestorm of
criticism of the administration. Some critics accused the president of
breaking the law by authorizing intercepts of conversations - without
prior court approval or oversight - of people inside the United States
and abroad who had suspected ties to al-Qaida or its affiliates.
The surveillance program, which Bush acknowledged authorizing,
bypassed a nearly 30-year-old secret court established to oversee
highly sensitive investigations involving espionage and terrorism.
Administration officials insisted that Bush has the power to conduct
the warrantless surveillance under the Constitution's war powers
provision. They also argued that Congress gave Bush the power to
conduct such a secret program when it authorized the use of military
force against terrorism in a resolution adopted within days of the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Justice Department's investigation was being initiated after the
agency received a request for the probe from the NSA.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been conducting a separate
leak investigation to determine who in the administration leaked CIA
operative Valerie Plame's name to the media in 2003.
Several reporters have been called to testify before a grand jury or
to give depositions. New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85
days in jail, refusing to reveal her source, before testifying in the
The administration's legal interpretation of the president's powers
allowed the government to avoid requirements under the 1978 Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act in conducting the warrantless
The act established procedures that an 11-member court used in 2004 to
oversee nearly 1,800 government applications for secret surveillance
or searches of foreigners and U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism or
Congressional leaders have said they were not briefed four years ago,
when the secret program began, as thoroughly as the administration has
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said in an article printed
last week on the op-ed page of The Washington Post that Congress
explicitly denied a White House request for war-making authority in
the United States.
"This last-minute change would have given the president broad
authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas ... but right
here in the United States, potentially against American citizens,"
Daschle was Senate Democratic leader at the time of the 2001 terrorist
attacks on New York City and Washington. He is now a fellow at the
Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.
The administration formally defended its domestic spying program in a
letter to Congress last week, saying the nation's security outweighs
privacy concerns of individuals who are monitored.
In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence
committees, the Justice Department said Bush authorized conducting
electronic surveillance without first obtaining a warrant in an effort
to thwart terrorist acts against the United States.
Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella acknowledged
"legitimate" privacy interests. But he said those interests "must be
balanced" against national security.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: As some of you may know, I have a blog
http://ptownson.blogspot.com, where, as a crazy old man with a
diseased brain who wears a tin-foil hat as I set about bringing shame
and mortification on the internet each day. Earlier today, I posted on
this very topic there: how typical it is of our government to (instead
of) dealing with the president who broke the law by doing domestic
spying on U.S. citizens; they instead twist it around and say they
will find out who snitched on the president for doing it and punish
_that person_ instead. Dubya has to be the worst president we have
ever had since Richard Milhouse Nixon, or maybe even earlier than
him. It was the same kind of thing in Nixon's instance; he and his
cheering squad complained about someone tattling on Nixon, and the
government tried to turn the screws on all involved. But finally the
Congress of the U.S. prevailed, and Nixon received the essence of an
impeachment. I do not know what will happen to Bush as a result of
him being so naughty, but I would sure hate to see the whistleblower
get punished instead. But that's your government for you these days.