Friday, December 30, 2005

Justice Department opens probe into leak of NSA program

The inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.

The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on its own, and the president was informed of it on Friday.

"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue. The fact is that al-Qaida's playbook is not printed on Page One and when America's is, it has serious ramifications," Duffy told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where Bush was spending the holidays." — PJM News - U.S. Justice Department opens probe into leak of Bush's domestic spying (6813051/AP)

This should be very interesting. How quickly do you suppose the Times will be able to turn and say this threatens civil liberties, and stop talking about the plame investigation?


Unknown said...

I caught the end of Special Report on Fox and saw the panel with Mort Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer and Jeff Burnbaum [or whatever the hell his name is].

Jeff made some really strange comments.

First he said the NYT did a public service by reporting lawbreaking on the part of the Bush administration and went further saying that all the legal scholars agreed Bush broke the law.

Mort Kondracke jumped all over him. He said the country is at war with these terrorists and the President was only trying to protect people by monitoring phone calls by terrorists calling into the country. He also said the WaPo was not any better than the NYT on all this, they were blowing secrets as well.

And he said that the NYT sat on this for a year and then sprang it the day of the Patriot Act vote for obvious political reasons.

I was listening to this and agreeing with Mort, but I was struck by the sheer arrogance of the position of the token liberal Jeff B.

For one thing the legal scholars are not exactly decided on this issue and to state as fact that they are is absurd. And for another publishing classified information is a crime. We do not need to discuss that.

So he is saying that it is ok to break the law if you are the NYT or the WaPo but Bush is guilty as charged just because they say so.

I am sure I could meet his legal scholar and raise him a Justice Dept official.

After all we are still arguing as to whether there is a Contstitional right to privacy.

Unknown said...


It would seem to me that if it were some public service and a matter of principle the NYT would have gone public as soon as they had the information, instead they wait until their compadres in the Democratic Party threaten to filibuster the Patriot Act.

A few weeks ago the 911 Commission was bitching and moaning that the Bush administration has not done we have the self appointed angels of civil liberties from the NYT and WaPo deciding they have done too much.

The ridiculous thing is the state can just kill the terrorists.

We can't tap their phones, or lock them up or do anything to humiliate them...but we can kill them.

In fact when you think about it that would make things a lot more simple now wouldn't it? I bet that would make the bleeding hearts proud..knowing they did their bit to make sure every AlQaida on the planet was executed.

buddy larsen said...

Terrye, that's exactly from where much capital punishment support comes from--if the perp is dead, then it's certain that no future nitwit genius is gonna spring him back onto the people.

So, the chance of an innocent getting the chop is of course what the bleeding hearts have managed to preserve.

Unknown said...


I guess that is true. Unintended consequences.

I was so disgusted when I heard that guy on Fox say the NYT had done a good thing I could have thrown something at the TV.

Self righteous idiots. They have no sense of historical perspective what so ever.

buddy larsen said...

So true. Allies had axis codes broken in WWII (led directly to several huge 'turning point' victories--El Alamein & Midway most dramatic), and to preserve the ememy's continued usage of the broken codes, Allied leaders again and again kept mum about movements that cost them lives and materiel--LOTS of lives and materiel. What they had was a sense of proportion--they wanted to win the war as quickly and at lowest cost possible. This of course really sucked for sailors who drowned at sea when their leaders could've warned them about sub pack signal intercept/decodes.

A journalist could've focused in on one or a dozen such stories, and made HUGE hay.

Find a grieving mom, tell her what's going on, and get the "FDR Knowingly Sent My Son To Die" headline.

And to make matters worse, the 'inch-deep' folks never have any names and faces of the people who DIDN'T die. Say--in my example--the never-generated casualty lists of 1946 and 1947 and maybe 1948, that were never generated because the lid was kept on the code-breaking.

Of course, the NYT and WaPo of today would've splashed the code-break news all over the headlines. Hell--they just DID.

The people's 'right-to-know'. As if we have no right to NOT know, in wartime.

I think it's the journo's 'right to a career' that's being played.

Well, they're busted, and they're gonna do the SOP, which is to fog it all up with incessant tidal waves of High-Falutin' Gasbaggery.

As if they give a flying fork about the country.

Charlie Martin said...

Jeff Birnbaum isn't so much the token liberal as he's the token legacy media guy; he tends to come down on the side of the legacy media whenever one of these things comes along. On the other hand, he seemed to have a real issue with understanding this --- he seems to believe the NYT spin uniformly.

On the other other hand, I can almost agree with him, for sort of the same reason I agree that we should revive the "he just needed killin'" defense for murder. But that wasn't an assertion of being above the law; it was an assertion that you were willing to risk the law to do what needed doing.

If they want to assert that they were doing a responsible thing that overwhelms the oath and the Espionage Act, they should confess and make that case at trial.

vnjagvet said...


"For one thing the legal scholars are not exactly decided on this issue and to state as fact that they are is absurd."

Your statement is precisely correct.

For one thing, FISA is not drafted with the type of NSA surveillance which has lately been in the news (and was in the news ten years ago when the "Echelon" program was the subject du jour). Therefore some of the definitions may not fit these activities with sufficient precision to meet the standards of criminal prosecution.

Second, to my knowledge, the Constitution has never been applied to preclude the gathering of necessary intelligence information from our adversaries to prevent attacks on our national territory.

Third, the actual nature of the questioned surveillance has not yet been disclosed, except in very general terms. Until that information (which is, of course, classified) is known, it cannot be measured against FISA's requirements.

All in all, what we have heard the past 10 days has been hot air (and meaninglesshotair at that). [sorry:-)]

But the the story of leaks of clearly classified information in time of war is neither hot air nor meaningless.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

chuck said...

The rumors are that Justice knows who the leakers are and that the resignation of Judge James Robertson from the FISA court is related. I have been wondering if an investigation hasn't been going on for some time, as the Government has known the NYT had the information since, when, a year ago?

Anyway, someone somewhere is dotting the i's and crossing the t's and perhaps we will see some action soon. Can't be soon enough for me. Not only can we put away some bad guys (knock, knock), but the spectacle, the yelling and screaming, the bitching and moaning, is going to be marvelous. I wonder how big a bite this is going to take out of the MSM and the Dems? I think we have the numbers on our side, not to mention the law.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Birnbaum isn't so much the token liberal as he's the token legacy media guy; he tends to come down on the side of the legacy media whenever one of these things comes along.

Birnbaum is a columnist for the WaPo, and the WaPo are also reputed to be under investigation. He has to toe his employer's line.

Unknown said...


I thought that as well... and so apparently did Mort Kondracke when he made note of the fact that WaPo had done the same kind of thing.

buddy larsen said...

We fret about continental Europe's lack of anti-jihad conviction--wonder how much of that we ourselves create, via WaPo & NYT? How many gallic shrugs do those two American avatars (in Europe, that is) create?

buddy larsen said...

That's it, really. anybody watching those skyscrapers burn back on 911, who didn't realize right away that Big Bubba's Borderless Beach-Party was SO over with, is a pure fool.

Syl said...


How many gallic shrugs...

One of the arguments from the left is a fear of spying on political enemies with NSA. Worry about political corruption is more important than worry about terrorists.

In France, and frankly, the rest of europe, America's concern over corruption is laughed at.

Well, we are concerned about corruption and we do prosecute it. But politics is verbal while terrorism is lethal. We can deal with political corruption at any time. We don't have that luxury with Osama's minions.

Doug said...

I scanned this and did not find any gratuitous slurs or slurps.
Hope it's clean.
Cedarford said...
OT but since I know Wretchard will eventually get to the Spooksworks controversy, I was looking at past articles of James Risen and found 3 years ago, he and the Times faulted the NSA and the Administration for not acting FAST ENOUGH on signals intercepts from Afghanistan to America:

Interesting NYTimes article written by James Risen in the 2002 pre-"precious sacred civil liberties of the enemy" era.

Risen, James, and David Johnston. "Agency Is Under Scrutiny for Overlooked Messages." New York Times, 20 Jun. 2002. []

According to U.S. intelligence officials on 19 June 2002, NSA "intercepted two cryptic communications [from Afghanistan] on the the day before the Sept. 11 attacks that referred to a major event scheduled for the next day." NSA analysts "did not process, translate and review the intercepted Arabic communications until the day after the attacks."

So back before the Times joined the hysterical Left in the all-consuming crusade to defeat the illegally elected Chimpy McHitlerburton and restore noble Algore to his rightful rule, the Times was scandalized and shocked that we did not slap human analysists trained in Arabic fast enough on two intercepted phone calls from Afghanistan to two Muslims here, one American, one a resident alien also with full civil liberties!!!

What about the 4th? Why did they dare intercept calls coming from terrorists in Afghanistan without probable cause? Impeach!!

(I don't think the NYTimes was whining that tune back in June, 2002. That was when we were demanding commissions to investigate why we weren't snooping enough on enemy Islamoids and why Coleen Crowley was blocked by officials too afraid for their careers to get a FISA warrant on Moussaoui, and why another FBI agent was rebuffed on investigating why Arabs were flocking to Flight school in Phoenix out of concern over the privacy rights of foreigners and lack of probable cause evidence that suspicious activity would translate into harm. Waiting for the "crime" to be committed, in order to have "probable cause" to investigate then solve the crime - was the ancient FBI mindset that the American public and Congress said ended on 9/11 - except for the Lefties and extreme civil libertarians, of course)

Doug said...

“Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general, insisted in a written statement to the House intelligence committee that ‘the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes….’

“Ms. Gorelick says that in espionage cases, if the Justice Department tried to meet all the strict rules imposed on police in criminal matters, it would ‘’unduly frustrate’’ America’s counter-intelligence efforts.

“She says: ‘Physical searches to gather foreign intelligence depend on secrecy. If the existence of these searches were known to the foreign power targets, they would alter their activities to render the information useless.’’‘

Gorelick’s statement eleven years ago sounds a lot like what President Bush said during his press conference this past Monday:

Doug said...

Article II. Section 3. (The President) shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...

Marc 01-20-2004, 07:20 PM
The dems clapped when he mentioned that the Patriot Act was set to expire.
That was kind of funny.
I wonder if he expected that.
Then when he said that the terrorist threat wouldn't expire the repubs had to show the dems who was boss and stood up and clapped.

buddy larsen said...

Judging from Saturday's news heads, the anti-patriots seem to be coalescing around their last anthill, which is the retroactive FISA submission. Nobody *seems* to understand that the court submission has to have the American side of the conversation redacted, including the phone number (except for the area code), and the submission to the court 'kills' that redacted info forever, insofar as its delivery to the FBI as an action memo, and/or it's later use in court.

So, why wouldn't the president fall back onto his larger powers--it would be SO counterproductive to the war-ends (presumably, 'victory') NOT to.

Does anyone in their right mind believe that all these wailing Dems don't know all this full well ALREADY?

BTW, Doug--great, great catch on the Risen archive.

Anonymous said...

There is really no law for Risen to hide behind now that the issue of proclaimed press shield law on the Federal level does not exist. Hopefully some low level attorney at DOJ is now filling out the grand jury subpoena in the name of "James Risen;" your appearance and all of "your notes and handbooks" is demanded for the Federal Grand Jury sitting in the District of Columbia, 3rd and Constitution Avenues, for the first week of Janaury, 2006.

Thank you, Ambassador Joe Wilson, Judy Miller and Matt Cooper for the clarification and affirmation of the existing law. You are to be saluted. Floyd Abrams and Bob Bennett get ready for more appearances before the Chief Judge.

The screw turns; the justfication for a DOJ investigation screams out in this case. This is not some two bit leak case, this is a major spill. Leakers should go to jail.

Lest we forget that the President of the United States met personally with Risen, Pinch Sulzberger and the head of the Times Washington DC office before publication seeking a moratorium on publishing this story. You may call one "ballsy" to turn down a personal appeal by the president at that juncture, the more apt phrase in retrospect is "utterly brainless."

Doug said...

Times Public Editor: Bill Keller Stonewalled Me