Thursday, January 05, 2006

NSA Confirms Bush Broke Law

A question posed by NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell regarding NSA wiretaps of a CNN journalist got a lot of blogging attention the past two days, including here on Lost Chord. CNN decided to ask the NSA directly if they had been wiretapping correspondent Christiane Amanpour. And the NSA official's response clearly says Bush broke the law.

CNN's national security correspondent David Ensor gave this report (via AmericaBlog):

Now, the NSA as you know is the eavesdropping intelligence agency, the US government's big ear, and from time to time, the official says, wiretaps overseas or other intercepts turn out to include Americans, or what they call 'US persons', which includes people who works for US companies, it does so inadvertently. But if the NSA finds it has tape and transcript of such a person, by law, it is required to be immediately erased, deleted, gotten rid of.

I'll let John Aravosis provide the rest:
Well, CNN reports that the administration told them today that "by law" NSA has to destroy any wiretaps that inadvertently pick up conversations with Americans or people who work for US companies "by law" it is required to be erased.

Ok, stop right there.

By law? You mean the same anti-wiretapping law that George Bush just broke and just told us he doesn't have to abide by because we're at war and he's commander in chief? Come on guys, I can't believe no one at CNN cracked a smile when they heard this. And please don't present this as definitive proof without noting the fact that the administration says it can break the law and many think they have broken it already. Not to mention, this totally contradicts what the president told us about taping conversations of 500+ American who have supposedly spoken with Al Qaeda affiliates - he's already admitted that Americans can be taped.

So you mean if Christiane spoke to a source who was an Al Qaeda affiliate the administration would NOT tape the call and if they did accidentally, they'd delete it? Give me a break. And in any case, Bush already admitted to tapping Americans so this defense is already moot. Unfortunately, CNN didn't mention that fact either.

And finally, while I'm glad CNN dug into this, asking a "senior intelligence official" to look into this - then having him get back to you and say "nope, nothing there, we didn't break the law" isn't really very conclusive evidence, don't you think? Did you expect him to get back to you and say "yes, we are tapping journalists?"

I'll admit that if I were conducting a live interview for television I might not think to jump on incorrect or inaccurate statements. Lots going on. But Ensor's interview with the NSA official wasn't live. He had time to think this through and follow up. Perhaps another reporter will do Ensor's unfinished work. But I'm not holding my breath.