Wednesday :: Dec 21, 2005

Fineman: Few In Administration Knew About NSA Spying

by Steve

Howard Fineman of Newsweek posted a “must-read” this afternoon on the MSNBC website, which not only gives us a good preview of what the NSA spying story has done to 2006, but also discloses what he has been told (by Richard Clarke, maybe?) about how closely held the NSA spying activities were inside the Bush Administration.

In the first weeks and months after 9/11, I am told by a very good source, there was a lot of wishing out loud in the White House Situation Room about expanding the National Security Agency’s ability to instantly monitor phone calls and e-mails between American callers and possible terror suspects abroad. “We talked a lot about how useful that would be,” said this source, who was “in the room” in the critical period after the attacks.
Well, as the world now knows, the NSA — at the prompting of Vice President Cheney and on official (secret) orders from President Bush — was doing just that. And yet, as I understand it, many of the people in the White House’s own Situation Room — including leaders of the national security adviser’s top staff and officials of the FBI — had no idea that it was happening.
As best I can tell — and this really isn’t my beat — the only people who knew about the NSA’s new (and now so controversial) warrant-less eavesdropping program early on were Bush, Cheney, NSA chief Michael Hayden, his top deputies, top leaders of the CIA, and lawyers at the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office hurriedly called in to sprinkle holy water on it.
Which presents the disturbing image of the White House as a series of nesting dolls, with Cheney-Bush at the tiny secret center, sifting information that most of the rest of the people around them didn’t even know existed.

Think about that. If Fineman is correct, the FBI senior staff weren’t told about the NSA operation; Condi’s staff weren’t told. It appears that Bush and Cheney were sold on it by Hayden in the aftermath of 9/11 and they just did it, and then got Ashcroft and Gonzales to issue opinions in the place of court decisions to make it look permissible when in fact Bush has been breaking the law.

Then Fineman give us his prediction for 2006, and it includes:

·The new difficulty that Alito will face because of the NSA matter;

·The NSA spying story will hand the GOP’s libertarian wing new clout;

·Voters will “blanch” when the level of intelligence gathering is revealed;

·We’ll be hearing more and more about impeachment.

My prediction: Bush should enjoy his bump in some polls now. Don’t be surprised if it goes downhill from here. This may very well be his high water mark for the next year.

Steve :: 3:09 PM :: Comments (57) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!