NSA expanded domestic surveillance after Sept. 11 without formal OK from Bush

[JURIST] In the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency [official website] expanded its domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive] program without formal authorization from President Bush, documents released Tuesday revealed. According to an October 2001 letter [text] released by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi [official website], after being briefed with other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees Pelosi expressed concern [AP report] to Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, then director of the NSA, over the agency's legal authority to conduct expanded domestic eavesdropping to identify terror suspects in the US. Pelosi wrote to Hayden:

During your appearance before the committee on October 1, you indicated that you had been operating since the September 11 attacks with an expansive view of your authorities with respect to the conduct of electronic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related statutes, orders, regulations, and guidelines. ...

... I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting. Until I understand better the legal analysis regarding the sufficiency of the authority which underlies your decision on the appropriate way to proceed on this matter, I will continue to be concerned.
Hayden replied that in the briefing he had been "attempting to emphasize that I used my authorities to adjust NSA's collection and reporting." An administration spokeswoman said Tuesday that Hayden had acted under the authority of a Reagan-era Executive Order [EO 12333 text], which set guidelines for intelligence gathering. The NSA further expanded its domestic surveillance under a 2002 executive order that specifically authorized the wiretapping of international communications [JURIST report] that originated within the US by people believed to be connected to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. Wednesday's New York Times has more.


 

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