Domestic Spying Leak Investigation

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Bush administration's domestic spying programs.
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It was announced on Friday, December 30, 2005, that the U.S. Department of Justice had launched an investigation "to determine who divulged the existence" of President George W. Bush's "secret" domestic spying program. According to officials, the "inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted" by the National Security Agency since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Associated Press reported.

In a New York Times front-page story December 15, 2005, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported that only months after the events of September 11, 2001, President 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."

The Times withheld the news from publication for a year, "partly," the Times said, "at the request of the [Bush] administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm aspects" of the spying program, the Associated Press reported. "White House spokesman Trent Duffy said that the Justice Department undertook the action on its own" and that Bush "was informed of it" on Friday, December 30th.

The Justice Department investigation "is clearly political and meant to insulate the White House and intelligence agencies from further public scrutiny by saying they are under a criminal prosecution," James Ridgeway, wrote in the December 30, 2005, Village Voice. "It will be up to Congress to undertake a serious investigation, issuing its own subpoenas, and calling the major participants to testify," Ridgeway said.

Wrong Inquiry?

"Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: 'It's pretty stunning that, rather than focus on whether the president broke his oath of office and broke federal law, they are going after the whistle-blowers'," the Associated Press reported. "Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor, agreed that the Justice Department is taking the wrong approach. ... 'Somebody in the government has enough concern about this programme that they are talking to reporters,' Silliman said. 'I don't think that is something the Justice Department should try to prosecute.'"

Leak Source(s)

"The officials said that all federal probes into leaks of classified information were sensitive. But the level of sensitivity surrounding the current probe is extraordinary — and likely to intensify — because of the presumption that few government officials had access to the program's details. Most of those potential witnesses are high-ranking administration officials, in the NSA or other intelligence agencies, or in top-level posts in Congress or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Josh Meyer wrote in the December 31, 2005, Los Angeles Times.

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