George W. Bush's domestic spying

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is part of our coverage of the
Bush administration's domestic spying programs.
Main article:
"Contrary to what the NYT[1] and others suggest, we don't have to look beyond data-mining to find something so horrible that a good conservative like James Comey would object. We just need to get to the point where the US is using data-mining of dubious connections to replace the idea of probable cause in a surveillance program."—Marcy Wheeler, The Next Hurrah Blog, July 29, 2007.[2]

Background: media accounts

  • "Since October [2005], news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for 'detecting, identifying and engaging' internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has roiled over the FBI's use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency's interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States -- without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.
"Defiant in the face of criticism, the Bush administration has portrayed each surveillance initiative as a defense of American freedom."—Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, December 18, 2005.
  • "But Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror."—Editorial, New York Times, December 18, 2005.
  • "Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the power to spy on Americans. Fine, then Congress can just take it back."—Editorial, New York Times, December 20, 2005.
  • "What do we make of the president boldly proclaiming that he has spy powers? Does he have X-ray vision too?"—Bob Fitrakis, Online Journal, January 11, 2006.


Domestic spying rebranded

With Congressional hearings scheduled to begin February 6, 2006, and ejecting "critics' assertion that he broke the law by authorizing domestic eavesdropping without a warrant, saying he was doing what Congress authorized him to do to protect Americans from terrorist attacks," President Bush "kicked his administration's new intensive public relations effort to win support for the program run by the National Security Agency" by rebranding it the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," the Associated Press's Nedra Pickler reported January 21, 2006.

National Security Agency

Only months after the events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a presidential order in 2002 which "secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials," James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported in the December 15, 2005, New York Times.

The NSA "has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible 'dirty numbers' linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications." [2]

"While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it say the N.S.A. eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials." [3]

"The NSA activities were justified by a classified Justice Department legal opinion authored by John C. Yoo, a former deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that congressional approval of the war on al Qaeda gave broad authority to the president, according to the Times," Dan Eggen wrote in the December 16, 2005, Washington Post.

"That legal argument was similar to another 2002 memo authored primarily by Yoo, which outlined an extremely narrow definition of torture. That opinion, which was signed by another Justice official, was formally disavowed after it was disclosed by the Washington Post," Eggen wrote.

Related external articles

Spying on internet traffic

"Two former AT&T employees say the telecom giant has maintained a secret, highly secure room in St. Louis since 2002," Salon's Kim Zetter reported June 21, 2006. "Intelligence experts say it bears the earmarks of a National Security Agency operation."

"If the NSA is using the secret room, it would appear to bolster recent allegations that the agency has been conducting broad and possibly illegal domestic surveillance and data collection operations authorized by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," Zetter wrote.

Spying on U.N. diplomats

  • "Despite all the news accounts and punditry since the New York Times published its Dec. 16 bombshell about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying, the media coverage has made virtually no mention of the fact that the Bush administration used the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq." [4]
  • "President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show," Jason Leopold reported December 27, 2005, for The Raw Story.

Spying on U.S. Government

  • "the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies -- including the CIA and DIA -- and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices." [5],[6]
    • "The journalist surveillance program, code named "Firstfruits," was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI "Countering Denial and Deception" program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC)."

Sharing surveillance data

Related external articles

Due to the nature of this rapidly developing story, and the response to it, the large number of external links have been placed in separate files. Also see article links cited below.

U.S. Department of Justice

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA)

Bush administration warrantless wiretapping (The Bush administration's false FISA defense)

Citizen spies: Operation TIPS

Central Intelligence Agency

CIA: National Clandestine Service

  • "US setting up new spying agency," BBC, October 13, 2005: "The National Clandestine Service (NCS) will oversee all human espionage operations - meaning spying by people rather than by technical means."

Federal Bureau of Investigation




  • Michael Moran, "Domestic spying vs. secret police. FBI walking tough, thin line on domestic surveillance," MSNBC, September 2, 2003.
  • "Bush Signs Bill Expanding FBI Authority," Associated Press, December 14, 2003: "The bill expands the number of businesses from which the FBI and other U.S. authorities conducting intelligence work can demand financial records without seeking court approval. ... Under current law, 'national security letters' can be issued to traditional financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, to require them to turn over information. The bill expands the definition of financial institution to include other businesses that deal with large amounts of cash."






FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force

FBI's National Security Service

Targets of US spying ops

U.S. Department of Defense

The Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) Report Program, June 24, 2007

DoD: Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)


DoD: U.S. Military "Commandos"

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Spying on college students

ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement)

U.S. Department of Energy

Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST)

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Scott Shane and David Johnston, "Mining of Data Prompted Fight Over U.S. Spying," New York Times, July 29, 2007.
  2. Marcy Wheeler, "Data-Mining Two," The Next Hurrah Blog, July 29, 2007. Also see the first part of this article titled "Data-Mining," July 28, 2007.


More external articles