WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA.
The Bush administration and the NSA have declined to provide details about the program the president authorized in 2001, but specialists said the agency serves as a vast data collection and sorting operation. It captures reams of data from satellites, fiberoptic lines, and Internet switching stations, and then uses a computer to check for names, numbers, and words that have been identified as suspicious.
"The whole idea of the NSA is intercepting huge streams of communications, taking in 2 million pieces of communications an hour," said James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, who was the first to reveal the inner workings of the secret agency.
"They have a capacity to listen to every overseas phone call," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has obtained documents about the NSA using Freedom of Information Act requests.
"Now I am going to tell you how we are not going to fight communism. We are not going to transform our fine FBI into a Gestapo secret police. That is what some people would like to do. We are not going to try to control what our people read and say and think. We are not going to turn the United States into a right-wing totalitarian country in order to deal with a left-wing totalitarian threat." -- April 24, 1950
As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.
On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.
The shock and rage we all felt in the hours after the attack were still fresh. America was reeling from the first attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. We suspected thousands had been killed, and many who worked in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not yet accounted for. Even so, a strong bipartisan majority could not agree to the administration's request for an unprecedented grant of authority.
The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress -- but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language.
In the days after Sept. 11, everyone agreed that we needed to recalibrate the delicate balance that had been struck between security and civil liberties. It now appears, however, that while the American people thought they were bargaining in good faith with their president, he was nodding and smiling and taking what he wanted in secret.
At the start of this "war," Congress thought it was authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan. But now we've learned that in so doing it also gave the president limitless powers to break the law. Congress thought it was passing the Patriot Act. But it was actually giving the government broad and seemingly open-ended new surveillance authority. We believed the executive branch to be bound by the rule of law—by the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and the ancient writ of habeas corpus. But the president was redefining torture, disregarding international conventions, and granting himself broad discretion to name and imprison enemy combatants for years on end.
Americans believed they were bargaining in good faith with their government over the original deal struck in 1978 when Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA was supposed to represent a compromise between security and civil liberties, by making it illegal to spy on Americans without judicial oversight but setting the bar for such oversight quite low. Even as amended by the Patriot Act—which further lowered the standards for a FISA warrant—the statute still purported to adhere to the fundamental bargain: Americans would not be spied upon by their government without basic constitutional checks in place.
In the face of this great tragedy, Americans are refusing to give terrorists the power. Our people have responded with courage and compassion, calm and reason, resolve and fierce determination. We have refused to live in a state of panic or a state of denial. There is a difference between being alert and being intimidated, and this great nation will never be intimidated.
People are going about their daily lives, working and shopping and playing, worshipping at churches and synagogues and mosques, going to movies and to baseball games.
Life in America is going forward, and as the fourth grader who wrote me knew, that is the ultimate repudiation of terrorism.
And something even more profound is happening across our country. The enormity of this tragedy has caused many Americans to focus on the things that have not changed, the things that matter most in life: our faith, our love for family and friends, our commitment to our country and to our freedoms and to our principles.
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretaps, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
"This conference report is another in a series of important steps to freeing up the necessary spectrum for our nation's first responders. By providing our emergency response entities and broadcasters with a date certain for the digital transition, our first responders can move forward in ensuring that critical communication infrastructure is in place in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack." -- Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Dec. 21, 2005
"This is one of the most unpatriotic acts ever attempted by an elected official -- tantamount to treason," said Brian Moore, legislative director for the Alaska Wilderness League. "It's Ted Stevens denying the troops food, funding, ammunition -- everything they need."
On Sept. 14, 2001, I went out to a local hangout -- a place where street performers do their acts for the gathered crowds, standing around in front of all the usual national chain stores.
It was eerie.
On any other Friday night, it would take some maneuvering just to negotiate through the masses. But on the first Friday after 9/11, there was practically nobody there. I made eye contact with just about everybody who passed by. It was like we were all on high alert in case anybody suspicious was there. No funny moves...
I've been there dozens, maybe hundreds of times since then and every time I go there, I think of that night.
I also remember dialing a friend on my cell phone that night. He was a Bush supporter in 2000. I wasn't. We had some friendly debates at the time. Neither of us thought it would be the end of the world if our guy didn't get elected.
I called him that night and told him I was glad Bush won. He said, "Of course, you are."
I really was. I was glad, not because of Bush, to be honest. I was happy that the team he had assembled had been around for the first Gulf War. I thought that experience would be a real blessing, I explained to my friend. I had no doubt that we were at war. I was behind it 100 percent. In fact, I was only worried that our response wouldn't be overwhelming enough.
September 11 had an enormous impact on me. But it did not change my core values. As fervently as I supported the president in responding to the attacks with force, I was equally chagrined at the site of people like William Bennett on my television, explaining to people like me that what I was feeling was "moral clarity." How revolting.
It's been three years and I am no longer grateful that Bush and his team are in office. I haven't felt that way in a long time. In my estimation, they haven't done anything right, in any capacity, since they took out the Taliban.
I've listened to all the people on my TV and radio telling me why I should vote one way or the other. If they support Bush, I can still respect them, as long as I don't think they're being dishonest (there are so many dishonest people involved in both campaigns).
But there is one group of people, represented by a trio, for whom I hold particular scorn. I'm talking about the people who know and don't care that the president will actively oppose all the policies and causes in which they believe.I, too, disagree with the president on every major domestic issue from taxes to Social Security. Yet I believe those issues are trumped by the overriding need to defeat international terrorism, the biggest threat to our freedom. -- Ed KochI think there are September 10 people and there are September 11 people. I'm one of the latter. Everything changed for me. Since then I see everything through the prism of what happened that day. For me this election is about one issue and that is the response to 9/11. In that sense I think the president is doing exactly the right thing. If 9/11 hadn't happened then I'd be firmly in the Democratic camp. -- Ron SilverWell, you know, I'm libertarian, liberal in almost everything, Lou, except 9/11 changed me. I am quite frankly shocked it hasn't changed the whole country, but obviously that's the beauty of a democracy. Anybody can believe what they want, but the moment they blow up the two biggest buildings in your culture and the Pentagon, you know, I'm certainly thinking preemption. It doesn't seem like a dirty word to me anymore. I believe the game has to be taken to the enemy. -- Dennis Miller
First of all, I completely disagree with the premise that only Bush will take it to the enemy. I wouldn't vote for Kerry if I thought for a second that he wouldn't take his role as Commander in Chief seriously.
I also disagree with the premise, and according to the polls I've seen, a majority of the electorate, that Bush is more capable of handling terrorism. I think the Bush campaign has been successful at creating a national debate about preemption in order to divert the debate away from the specifics of how they've handled the war. I'm not against preemption, if there's sufficient evidence to justify it. Neither is Kerry. But Bush has botched it. Badly.
I've already spent a great deal of time on this blog pointing out how poorly Bush has conducted the war in Iraq. I could spend all the time up to the election cataloging his mistakes.
But the real root of my disdain for these three stems from their admission, offered without qualification and almost with a hint of glee, that they support Bush despite the fact that they are opposed to everything he stands for outside of the war.
I can think of nothing more cowardly than abandoning all your principles because some cave dwellers have attacked us.
People don't drive around New Hampshire with "Take my rights, just don't hurt me" on their license plates. Those plates say "LIVE FREE OR DIE."
Of course, I think it's not much of a coincidence that the three biggest spokesman for ditching your core beliefs are all financially secure white men over the age of 50 (make that five of them if you throw in moderate Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger).
September 11 changed me, too, despite what Miller may think about me. But it doesn't make me forget who I am. It doesn't make me forget what I stand for. It certainly won't make me celebrate the abandonment of my principles the way these three have.
The congressional debate and vote took place Sept. 14, 2001, as the nation reeled from the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. It was the day Bush went to Ground Zero and, using a borrowed bullhorn, told workers there that "the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon!"
On Capitol Hill, the White House proposed a resolution that would give the president authority to "deter and prevent any related future acts of terrorism and aggression against the United States." Members from both parties objected that the language was too broad.
"It would have given him authority to do anything he wanted, anytime, anywhere," recalls Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. The wording was revised.
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.
We've talked for years about the importance of getting new spectrum in the hands of our first responders. But today that priority was a casualty of the clout that powerful interests wield in Congress and a process driven by gimmicks aimed at making a fiscally irresponsible budget more palatable.-- Senator John Kerry, Oct. 20, 2005, after Senator John McCain's proposal to expedite the spectrum transition was defeated
Of course, questions will be asked about what is the "right" hard deadline for the transition. In choosing 2009 as a target date for our plan, we focused on three potential benefits. First, because the Commission's tuner mandate becomes fully effective on July 1, 2007, having a deadline of 2009 will add millions more digital sets to the marketplace before analog signals are turned off. The tuner mandate and other market forces will also further drive down the costs of digital-to-analog converters during that time for those households still relying on analog broadcast television.
Further, a 2009 deadline would provide time to prepare the public on the impending end of the transition so they could take steps to prepare themselves in the natural course of replacing old sets.
Finally, under the current 85 percent statutory test, the added DTV 8 sets with tuners and the expansion of DBS local-into-local markets will help ensure that most of the country meets the 85% threshold, providing for a nationwide end to the transition rather than a piecemeal result. The ultimate benefit of the 2009 deadline, in conjunction with steps we already have taken, will be to reduce to a minimum the number of consumers reliant on analog broadcast television.
Whenever the transition ends, however, we recognize that there will be consumers that still tune into analog over-the-air television.
Mr. President, this amendment would close off the analog broadcasting too close to the auction of spectrum. We currently have an April 2009 date. The auction date is January of 2009. It is just too close together. The leases cannot be processed. There is no way those auction proceeds can be available until licenses are issued. This amendment would end analog broadcasts before the funds are available for the converter box fund or the translator conversion fund authorized by S. 1932. We need help in this transition. The amendment makes spectrum available to public safety groups before they can put it to use because we are informed public safety groups must have at least 3 years to prepare for the use of spectrum.
We are going to get them the spectrum. They will not be able to use it until we have the money to bring about the transition. I believe our whole committee should oppose this amendment.
CBO estimates that the proceeds from the auction of the 60 megahertz now used by broadcasters would most likely total between $10 billion and $15 billion, with an expected value of about $12.5 billion. But offering the wireless industry a total of 150 megahertz within a two- or three-year time period, would probably result in lower bids in the 90 megahertz auction that will take place under current law.
The overall effect of the transition's lasting beyond 2006 is that some of the anticipated benefits from the move to digital TV may not be available as originally planned. Of particular significance for policymakers is that receipts from the scheduled auctions of licenses for the use of spectrum formerly available for analog broadcasting are likely to be lower. Each year of delay expected in freeing up those frequencies in a given market reduces a potential bidder's valuation of the license by the bidder's annual cost of funds. For example, if bidders desired a 10 percent rate of return on their investment, a one-year delay in receiving use of the spectrum would reduce what they were willing to pay for their license by about 10 percent (although the correspondence is not always exact).
LEE HAMILTON: Absolutely. This is a no-brainer. From the standpoint of responding to a disaster, the key responders must be able to talk with one another. They could not do it on 9/11, and as a result of that, lives were lost. They could not do it at Katrina. They still cannot do it. And we think this is... must be urgently considered and approved. Now, that's not the only problem.
TIM RUSSERT: Will it get fixed this week?
MR. HAMILTON: I don't know.
TOM KEAN: No.
MR. HAMILTON: It's a close call.
MR. KEAN: No, it's not...
MR. HAMILTON: We don't know.
MR. KEAN: It's not going to be fixed this week because the best hope we have is a bill that fixes it by '09.
-- Chair and vice chair of the September 11 Commission, Republican Tom Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, on Meet the Press, Dec. 4, 2005
First, only 75 stations, equaling 5% of the 1500 U.S. TV stations, impact public safety's availability of its 700 MHz band spectrum. Second, Motorola's analysis of independent television industry data shows that on average, only 14% of the TV households who have the option to view these stations actually do so at all and that of those viewing, 82% watch by cable. This means that, on average, only 3% of the TV households within these stations' coverage areas tune to these stations over-the-air sometime during an average week. Therefore, the public interest benefits of clearing the 700 MHz spectrum for public safety access nationwide no later than December 31, 2006, far outweigh those of allowing it to stay encumbered by television.
In previous decades, owners of Beta video players and 8-track tape players discovered that they could no longer purchase content for their machines because manufacturers of content had switched to alternative formats. Over the past decade, owners of phonograph record and cassette collections have found it difficult to purchase the equipment needed to listen to them. In none of these cases was there public pressure for either the industry or Congress to preserve the worth of past purchases.
A NYPD helicopter pilot reported early, before the fall of the South Tower, that the North Tower was going to fall, but the fire chiefs did not hear of this. When the pilot saw that the South Tower was falling his announcement to police command was instant, and police command issued a forceful and robust order to evacuate the remaining building and to move all department vehicles to safety. Notwithstanding that this was a successful communication that resulted in the saving of many lives, the fire chiefs did not hear this order.
The command of the North Tower was covered with debris when the South Tower fell, and Chief Joseph Pfeifer, in complete darkness, gave the order, "All units in Tower One evacuate the building."
Just how many firefighters escaped in the twenty-nine minutes from Chief Pfeiffer's order is not certain, but we do know that one police officer, at least five Port Authority police officers, and 121 firefighters were killed when the second tower collapsed. Others were killed on the street, including four ESU 5 officers and a number of other firefighters who had successfully evacuated the building. -- 9/11 testimony of Dennis Smith, June 19, 2004
In the short term (within 5 years), approximately 25 MHz of new Public Safety allocations are needed. The present shortages can be addressed by making part of the spectrum presently used for television broadcast channels 60-69 available as soon as possible.
No responsibility is more fundamental and reflective of the nation's values than that of its Public Safety agencies. The citizens' legitimate expectation is that when their life or property is endangered, their government will respond. Vast federal, state, and local resources are committed to ensure this obligation is met. The effectiveness of police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, and other Public Safety officials is inextricably tied to communications capability. Today's communications environment, however, impedes meeting this responsibility. Rescuing victims of the World Trade Center bombing, who were caught between floors, was hindered when police officers could not communicate with fire fighters on the very next floor. Similarly, the inability to communicate among the agencies that had rushed to the Oklahoma City bombing site required resorting to runners to relay messages. The lack of sufficient, quality radio spectrum suitable for Public Safety use deters technological innovation, diminishes the responsiveness and effectiveness of Public Safety, and ultimately compromises the safety of the responding officers and of the very individuals seeking their help.
This report identifies a number of approaches that can provide Public Safety with enhanced communications capabilities — higher quality transmission, access to emerging technologies, and availability of a broader range of services — immediately and in the long term. The first is allocation of additional spectrum for Public Safety. This entails reallocating spectrum from other uses and/or adding Public Safety uses to already allocated bands through sharing.
It is likely that widely accepted use of commercial services may take longer than five years. The need for spectrum to provide interoperability is immediate, and the alternatives for short-term solutions are limited.
Public safety cannot afford to wait five or more years for spectrum relief assistance from the commercial sector as a solution to pressing interoperability problems today. By the time commercial services become more widely used for Public Safety applications, the amount of spectrum needed to accommodate yet-to-be-discovered applications will likely increase with those new requirements.
I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. -- Bill O'Reilly, Dec. 2, 2005
WOLF BLITZER: At this time of holiday purchases, Christmas shopping, people going to a Wal-Mart and other stores, they see a lot of products made in China. The deficit, the trade deficit, with China this year is projected to be at $200 billion.
In other words, they're going to export to this country $200 billion more than we export to China. And that number has been escalating over these years. Is that good for the U.S. economy?
JOSH BOLTEN, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Well, trade overall is absolutely good for the U.S. economy. Keep in mind, Wolf, that the United States is the world's largest exporter. We have a lot of jobs tied up in that. We have a lot of revenue tied up in that.
To the extent that we can import as well, the U.S. consumer gets access and U.S. businesses get access to low priced goods that help us be competitive in the long run. There's no question in my mind and in the minds of everybody in this administration that keeping an open trading system is crucial to sustaining the growth in this economy over the long run.
BLITZER: Josh Bolten, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.
By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas -- knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on "covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations." In a "secret amendment" to Pentagon policy, the report warns, "psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies."