Friday, May 19, 2006

Daily Kos: Funny Images from the Department of Homeland Security

It's one of those Fridays. Just check these out. Props to Cyberotter on Dailykos.

Funny Images from the Department of Homeland Security
by cyberotter
Fri May 19, 2006 at 05:25:47 AM PDT

My friends over at Americablog reminded me of something I thought was hesterical. Keep in mind that these images are not altered in any way.

Images were provided by the Department of Homeland security.

Captions were not. (laughing)

The US government has a new website, DHS Homepage. It's another attempt at scare mongering in the style of the old "duck and cover" advice after WWII. Remember the image of a man hiding under a desk protecting himself from nuclear fallout?

The funny thing is that these pictures are so ambiguous they could mean anything!

Here are a few interpretations.

If you are trapped under falling debris, conserve oxygen by not farting.

If your building collapses, give yourself a blowjob while waiting to be rescued.

After exposure to radiation it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head.

A one-inch thick piece of plywood should be sufficient protection against radiation.

If you've become a radiation mutant with a deformed hand, remember to close the window. No one wants to see that shit.

To see the rest of the images please visit No Hat Tip

Posted by crimnos @ 9:14 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Andrew Sullivan: My Problem with Christianism

Don't ever tell anyone I posted an Andrew Sullivan article, but this one is good. Thanks to John for sending it my way.

My Problem with Christianism
A believer spells out the difference between faith and a political agenda

May 15, 2006

Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented by the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.

The number of Christians misrepresented by the Christian right is many. There are evangelical Protestants who believe strongly that Christianity should not get too close to the corrupting allure of government power. There are lay Catholics who, while personally devout, are socially liberal on issues like contraception, gay rights, women's equality and a multi-faith society. There are very orthodox believers who nonetheless respect the freedom and conscience of others as part of their core understanding of what being a Christian is. They have no problem living next to an atheist or a gay couple or a single mother or people whose views on the meaning of life are utterly alien to them--and respecting their neighbors' choices. That doesn't threaten their faith. Sometimes the contrast helps them understand their own faith better.

And there are those who simply believe that, by definition, God is unknowable to our limited, fallible human minds and souls. If God is ultimately unknowable, then how can we be so certain of what God's real position is on, say, the fate of Terri Schiavo? Or the morality of contraception? Or the role of women? Or the love of a gay couple? Also, faith for many of us is interwoven with doubt, a doubt that can strengthen faith and give it perspective and shadow. That doubt means having great humility in the face of God and an enormous reluctance to impose one's beliefs, through civil law, on anyone else.

I would say a clear majority of Christians in the U.S. fall into one or many of those camps. Yet the term "people of faith" has been co-opted almost entirely in our discourse by those who see Christianity as compatible with only one political party, the Republicans, and believe that their religious doctrines should determine public policy for everyone. "Sides are being chosen," Tom DeLay recently told his supporters, "and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will." So Christ is a conservative Republican?

Rush Limbaugh recently called the Democrats the "party of death" because of many Democrats' view that some moral decisions, like the choice to have a first-trimester abortion, should be left to the individual, not the cops. Ann Coulter, with her usual subtlety, simply calls her political opponents "godless," the title of her new book. And the largely nonreligious media have taken the bait. The "Christian" vote has become shorthand in journalism for the Republican base.

What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of the religious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?

So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:06 PM :: (2) comments

US troops massacred Iraqi civilians

Absolutely disgusting.

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood," a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”


Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:32 PM :: (0) comments

Congress May Require ISPs to Snoop on Americans

I'm shocked to post something from CNET News, but there you go. Looks like they're trying to extend some of the spying rules to the net now. Like there was any doubt that this would come...

Congress may make ISPs snoop on you
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: May 16, 2006, 4:00 AM PDT

A prominent Republican on Capitol Hill has prepared legislation that would rewrite Internet privacy rules by requiring that logs of Americans' online activities be stored, CNET has learned.

The proposal comes just weeks after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Internet service providers should retain records of user activities for a "reasonable amount of time," a move that represented a dramatic shift in the Bush administration's views on privacy.

Legislation is being prepared that would rewrite Internet privacy rules by requiring that logs of Americans' online activities be stored.
Bottom line:

The legislation would create a federal felony targeted at bloggers, search engines, e-mail service providers and many other Web sites that might "facilitate" access to unlawful pornography.

Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is proposing that ISPs be required to record information about Americans' online activities so that police can more easily "conduct criminal investigations." Executives at companies that fail to comply would be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

In addition, Sensenbrenner's legislation--expected to be announced as early as this week--also would create a federal felony targeted at bloggers, search engines, e-mail service providers and many other Web sites. It's aimed at any site that might have "reason to believe" it facilitates access to child pornography--through hyperlinks or a discussion forum, for instance.

Speaking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last month, Gonzales warned of the dangers of pedophiles using the Internet anonymously and called for new laws from Congress. "At the most basic level, the Internet is used as a tool for sending and receiving large amounts of child pornography on a relatively anonymous basis," Gonzales said.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc.

Until Gonzales' speech, the Bush administration had explicitly opposed laws requiring data retention, saying it had "serious reservations" (click here for PDF) about them. But after the European Parliament last December approved such a requirement for Internet, telephone and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, top administration officials began talking about it more favorably.

The drafting of the data-retention proposal comes as Republicans are trying to do more to please their conservative supporters before the November election. One bill announced last week targets and other social networking sites. At a meeting last weekend, social conservatives called on the Bush administration to step up action against pornography, according to a New York Times report.

Sensenbrenner's proposal is likely to be controversial. It would substantially alter U.S. laws dealing with privacy protection of Americans' Web surfing habits and is sure to alarm Internet businesses that could be at risk for linking to illicit Web sites.

A spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee said the aide who drafted the legislation was not immediately available for an interview on Monday.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Drew Wade said the agency generally doesn't comment on legislation, though it may "issue a letter of opinion" at a later date.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, called Sensenbrenner's measure an "open-ended obligation to collect information about all customers for all purposes. It opens the door to government fishing expeditions and unbounded data mining."

The National Security Agency has engaged in extensive data-mining about Americans' phone calling habits, USA Today reported last week, a revelation that could complicate Republicans' efforts to enact laws relating to mandatory data retention and data mining. Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, for instance, took a swipe at the program on Monday, and Democrats have been calling for a formal investigation.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:05 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Iraqi Police Kill 14-year old for being Gay

Sorry, what were we fighting for there again? Oh yeah, freedom and democracy. The article assumes he's gay, but you'll do what you have to to survive, I guess.

A 14-year-old boy has been shot by Iraqi police officers for the apparent crime of being gay, the Independent of London reported.

According to his neighbors in Baghdad's al-Dura district, Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after a scuffle with the police.

Ali Hili, an exiled gay Iraqi who is Middle East affairs spokesman for the London gay rights group OutRage! said, "According to a neighbor, who witnessed Ahmed's execution from his bedroom window, four uniformed police officers arrived at Ahmed's house in a four-wheel-drive police pick-up truck."

"The neighbor saw the police drag Ahmed out of the house and shoot him at point-blank range, pumping two bullets into his head and several more bullets into the rest of his body."

Hili claimed that Ahmed was a "victim of poverty" and apparently killed by "fundamentalist elements in the Iraqi police."

It is believed Ahmed slept with men for money to support his poverty-stricken family. They have since fled the area.

Hili is coordinator of a U.K. group consisting of more than 30 Iraqi gay exiles. They are in contact with an underground network of gay people in Baghdad and other cities.

Human rights groups have condemned the murder, which is part of a pattern of anti-gay killings in Iraq, rights groups say.

Rainbow for Life, an Iraqi gay group, has blamed the killing spree on the Badr Corps, the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's most powerful Shiite Muslim group.

A Rainbow spokesman told IRIN, "We know for certain that those killed were targeted because of their sexual preferences."

Homosexuality is considered sinful in Islamic countries, but an anti-gay edict issued by the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in October has unleashed what amounts to a pogrom against gay men and lesbians, gay Iraqis say.

But wait, there's more! Apparently the death squads in Iraq have been targeting gay victims. I have to admit, this is completely new to me, and, well, I guess not that surprising. How long until Sharia?

Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays
Three Years On, Americans Ignore Pleas of Repression Even Worse than Saddam’s
Courtesy OutRage! London

Left, Ammar, aged 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006. Right, Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in September 2005.

Following a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in the Green Zone, the secure area officialdom has carved out within Baghdad, gays Iraqis are met with indifference and derision.

“The Badr Corps is committed to the sexual cleansing of Iraq,” said Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay Iraqis who have fled to the United Kingdom, five months ago founded the Abu Nawas Group there to support persecuted gay Iraqis. The group is named for a revered eighth-century classical poet of Arab and Persian descent known throughout Middle East cultures and famous for his poems in praise of same-sex love.

“We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people,” Hili told Gay City News.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been carrying out a lethal anti-gay pogrom, notably through entrapment schemes carried out on the Internet. The Badr Corps in Iraq has recently begun to use this tactic to identify and hunt down Iraqi gays.

The well-armed Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community, and was headquartered in exile in Tehran until Saddam Hussein’s fall. The SCIRI’s Badr Corps is trained and commanded by former Iraqi army officers.

The Ayatollah Sistani, the 77-year-old Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, is revered by SCIRI as its spiritual leader. His anti-gay fatwa—available on Sistani’s official Web site—says that “people involved” in homosexuality “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Speaking by telephone from London, Hili said that “there is a very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today. We are receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq—intimidation, beatings, kidnappings, and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the ayatollah’s fatwa, but Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men.”

Now, Hili said, “when Badr thugs attack and beat up a gay person in the street, crowds of passers-by gather around to cheer them on.”

“Badr Corps agents have a network of informers who, among other things, target alleged immoral behavior,” Hili continued. “They kill gays, unveiled women, prostitutes, people who sell or drink alcohol, and those who listen to Western music and wear Western fashions.”

“Badr militants are entrapping gay men via Internet chat rooms,” Hili said. “They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married.

“Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don’t change their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear, and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”

Tahseen is an underground gay activist in Iraq, and a correspondent there for the British Abu Nawas Group. A 31-year-old photography lab technician, Tahseen told Gay City News by telephone from Baghdad this weekend, “Just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear.”

Tahseen said that men who seem obviously gay “cannot walk in the street. My best friend was recently killed for being gay.”

Posted by crimnos @ 11:00 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Secret gov't source tells ABC News: 'Get new cellphones'

Well, well, well... here's an interesting twist in the whole surveillance thing. The government could be listening in on reporters on their cell phones?? Surely this will protect us from Al Qaeda!

Secret Gov't Source Tells ABC News: "Get New Cellphones"
By Frank James
The Chicago Tribune

Monday 15 May 2006

ABC News has a very disturbing report today, at least for reporters and anyone else who believe that whistleblowers serve an important role in safeguarding American democracy.

On its blog, The Blotter, ABC News reports that a senior government source has told its reporters that the reporters' phone calls with sources are being tracked by the U.S. government "to root out confidential sources."

I hasten to say I don't have independent confirmation of the ABC News report. But I thought it was something readers of The Swamp would find interesting. The item follows.

Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.

The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.

A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.

Being a confidential source who disagrees with a presidential administration then decides to oppose it by becoming a whistleblower can take courage when discovery means loss of a job and possible legal consequences.

It's just that kind of courage that this revelation is likely to chill. That could be the administration's intent here, to make would-be confidential sources think twice before talking with reporters.

It's no small irony that the only reason we now know about this is because a ABC News' confidential source told them about it.

The Blotter posting raises the question of whether ABC News' phone calls were swept up as part of the vast National Security Agency database consisting of the phone-call records of millions of Americans which USA Today reported on last week.

It's impossible for anyone outside of a few inside the government to say. But the fact that ABC News journalists are even seriously wondering about whether the warning is connected to the NSA's domestic surveillance activities indicates just how anxious many people in Washington have become.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:33 AM :: (0) comments

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 :: (0) comments