Saturday, December 17, 2005

Domestic spying OK'd by president

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said Thursday night.

The supersecretive NSA, which in the past has generally been forbidden from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mails, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times first disclosed Thursday night.

The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials.

Authorities, including former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said.

But the program's ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and from the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

The White House made no comment Thursday night. A senior official reached by telephone said the issue was too sensitive to talk about. None of several press officers contacted responded to telephone or e-mail messages.

Congressional sources familiar with limited aspects of the program would not discuss any classified details but made clear there were serious questions regarding the legality of the NSA actions.

Source : Here.


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