Monday, May 15, 2006

The Noose Closes Around Cheney

Wow, got a double shot from the New York Times.

First we learn that Cheney seems to be the one at the center of the whole Plame deal. I don't think it's all that surprising, given the sort of behind-the-scenes dealing we all know he's been doing, but haven't been able to prove to this point.

Notes Are Said to Reveal Close Cheney Interest in a Critic of Iraq Policy
By David Johnston
The New York Times

Sunday 14 May 2006

Washington - Vice President Dick Cheney made handwritten notations on a July 2003 newspaper column that indicate he was focused on a critic of the administration's Iraq policy, according to a court filing in the C.I.A. leak case.

Mr. Cheney's notes were cited in a prosecution brief in the case against the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr. The entries were made on a copy of an Op-Ed article by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, that was published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003. The leak case involves the disclosure that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a C.I.A. officer.

"Those annotations support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op-Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant - his chief of staff - on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in his article, and on responding to those assertions," said the legal papers filed Friday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

In neat writing above the text of the column, prosecutors say, Mr. Cheney wrote: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

The legal papers do not address how prosecutors know it is Mr. Cheney's handwriting or when the notes were written. A spokesman for the vice president could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Mr. Fitzgerald wants to use the notations to support the prosecution's contention that Mr. Libby lied to investigators and a grand jury when he testified that he had learned of Ms. Wilson's existence from reporters. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby, who has been charged with perjury, learned about Ms. Wilson's role from several people, including Mr. Cheney.

In the column, Mr. Wilson wrote of his doubts about administration statements that Iraq had tried to acquire nuclear fuel from Africa. Mr. Wilson wrote that his skepticism was based on a trip he took to Niger in early 2002 to examine intelligence reports that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium ore.

Mr. Cheney's notations confirm that he was aware of who Ms. Wilson was, if not her name, before her name was first publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak.

The prosecution brief said, "The annotated version of the article reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president to Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article, and thus is relevant to establishing some of the facts that were viewed as important by the defendant's immediate superior, including whether Mr. Wilson's wife had 'sen[t] him on a junket.' "

The notes, included in a brief filed late Friday and first reported on Saturday by Newsweek magazine on its Web site, add new detail to what is already known about Mr. Cheney's interest in rebutting the assertions in Mr. Wilson's column.

In addition, the notes add to evidence in the case showing that Mr. Cheney and his aides viewed Mr. Wilson's article with deep concern and looked for ways to counter its impact. Previous prosecution filings have said the article was viewed as a direct assault on the administration's policy and provoked efforts to discredit Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Libby has also been charged with obstruction of justice and has pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled to be tried early next year.

Next, we learn that Mr. Cheney, busy little bee that he is, pushed for a wider net when it came to domestic spying. What a great guy!

Cheney Pushed US to Widen Eavesdropping
By Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau
The New York Times

Sunday 14 May 2006

Washington - In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.

But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.

The N.S.A.'s position ultimately prevailed. But just how Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the agency at the time, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits is not yet clear.

As the program's overseer and chief salesman, General Hayden is certain to face questions about his role when he appears at a Senate hearing next week on his nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Criticism of the surveillance program, which some lawmakers say is illegal, flared again this week with the disclosure that the N.S.A. had collected the phone records of millions of Americans in an effort to track terrorism suspects.

By several accounts, including those of the two officials, General Hayden, a 61-year-old Air Force officer who left the agency last year to become principal deputy director of national intelligence, was the man in the middle as President Bush demanded that intelligence agencies act urgently to stop future attacks.

On one side was a strong-willed vice president and his longtime legal adviser, David S. Addington, who believed that the Constitution permitted spy agencies to take sweeping measures to defend the country. Later, Mr. Cheney would personally arrange tightly controlled briefings on the program for select members of Congress.

On the other side were some lawyers and officials at the largest American intelligence agency, which was battered by eavesdropping scandals in the 1970's and has since wielded its powerful technology with extreme care to avoid accusations of spying on Americans.

As in other areas of intelligence collection, including interrogation methods for terrorism suspects, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution, the two intelligence officials said.

If people suspected of links to Al Qaeda made calls inside the United States, the vice president and Mr. Addington thought eavesdropping without warrants "could be done and should be done," one of them said.

He added: "That's not what the N.S.A. lawyers think."

The other official said there was "a very healthy debate" over the issue. The vice president's staff was "pushing and pushing, and it was up to the N.S.A. lawyers to draw a line and say absolutely not."

Both officials said they were speaking about the internal discussions because of the significant national security and civil liberty issues involved and because they thought it was important for citizens to understand the interplay between Mr. Cheney's office and the N.S.A. Both spoke favorably of General Hayden; one expressed no view on his nomination for the C.I.A. job, and the other was interviewed by The New York Times weeks before President Bush selected the general.

Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride, declined to discuss the deliberations about the classified program. "As the administration, including the vice president, has said, this is terrorist surveillance, not domestic surveillance," she said. "The vice president has explained this wartime measure is limited in scope and conducted in a lawful way that safeguards our civil liberties."

Representatives for the N.S.A. and for the general declined to comment.

Even with the N.S.A. lawyers' reported success in limiting its scope, the program represents a fundamental expansion of the agency's practices, one that critics say is illegal. For the first time since 1978, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed and began requiring court approval for all eavesdropping on United States soil, the N.S.A. is intentionally listening in on Americans' calls without warrants.

The spying that would become such a divisive issue for the White House and for General Hayden grew out of a meeting days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush gathered his senior intelligence aides to brainstorm about ways to head off another attack.

"Is there anything more we could be doing, given the current laws?" the president later recalled asking.

General Hayden stepped forward. "There is," he said, according to Mr. Bush's recounting of the conversation in March during a town-hall-style meeting in Cleveland.

By all accounts, General Hayden was the principal architect of the plan. He saw the opportunity to use the N.S.A.'s enormous technological capabilities by loosening restrictions on the agency's operations inside the United States.

For his part, Mr. Cheney helped justify the program with an expansive theory of presidential power, which he explained to traveling reporters a few days after The Times first reported on the program last December.

Mr. Cheney traced his views to his service as chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford in the 1970's, when post-Watergate changes, which included the FISA law, "served to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in a national security area."

Senior intelligence officials outside the N.S.A. who discussed the matter in late 2001 with General Hayden said he accepted the White House and Justice Department argument that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to approve such eavesdropping on international calls.

"Hayden was no cowboy on this," said another former intelligence official who was granted anonymity because it was the only way he would talk about a program that remains classified. "He was a stickler for staying within the framework laid out and making sure it was legal, and I think he believed that it was."

The official said General Hayden appeared particularly concerned about ensuring that one end of each conversation was outside the United States. For his employees at the N.S.A., whose mission is foreign intelligence, avoiding purely domestic eavesdropping appears to have been crucial.

But critics of the program say the law does not allow spying on a caller in the United States without a warrant, period - no matter whether the call is domestic or international.

"Both would violate FISA," said Nancy Libin, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group.

Ms. Libin said limiting the intercepts without warrants to international calls "may have been a political calculation, because it sounds more reassuring."

One indication that the restriction to international communications was dictated by more than legal considerations came at a House hearing last month. Asked whether the president had the authority to order eavesdropping without a warrant on purely domestic communications, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales replied, "I'm not going to rule it out."

Despite the decision to focus on only international calls and e-mail messages, some domestic traffic was inadvertently picked up because of difficulties posed by cellphone and e-mail technology in determining whether a person was on American soil, as The Times reported last year.

And one government official, who had access to intelligence from the intercepts that he said he would discuss only if granted anonymity, believes that some of the purely domestic eavesdropping in the program's early phase was intentional. No other officials have made that claim.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said Saturday, "N.S.A. has not intentionally listened in on domestic-to-domestic calls without a court order."

President Bush and other officials have denied that the program monitors domestic calls. They have, however, generally stated their comments in the present tense, leaving open the question of whether domestic calls may have been captured before the program's rules were fully established.

After the program started, General Hayden was the one who briefed members of Congress on it and who later tried to dissuade The Times from reporting its existence.

When the newspaper published its first article on the program in December, the general found himself on the defensive. He had often insisted in interviews and public testimony that the N.S.A. always followed laws protecting Americans' privacy. As the program's disclosure provoked an outcry, he had to square those assurances with the fact that the program sidestepped the FISA statute.

Nonetheless, General Hayden took on a prominent role in explaining and defending the program. He appeared at the White House alongside Mr. Gonzales, spoke on television and gave an impassioned speech at the National Press Club in January.

Some of the program's critics have found his visibility in defending a controversial presidential policy inappropriate for an intelligence professional. "There's some unhappiness at N.S.A. with Hayden taking such an upfront role," said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and former N.S.A. analyst who keeps in touch with some employees. "If the White House got them into this, why is Hayden the one taking the flak?"

But General Hayden seems determined to stand up for the agency's conduct - and his own. In the press club speech, General Hayden recounted remarks he made to N.S.A. employees two days after the Sept. 11 attacks: "We are going to keep America free by making Americans feel safe again."

He said that the standards for what represented a "reasonable" intrusion into Americans' privacy had changed "as smoke billowed from two American cities and a Pennsylvania farm field."

"We acted accordingly," he said.

In the speech, General Hayden hinted at the internal discussion of the proper limits of the N.S.A. program. Although he did not mention Mr. Cheney or his staff, he said the decision to limit the eavesdropping to international phone calls and e-mail messages was "one of the decisions that had been made collectively."

"Certainly, I personally support it," General Hayden said.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:52 AM