More Evidence Justice Department Knew Surveillance Was Illegal
Legislation drafted by Justice Department lawyers in 2003 to strengthen the USA Patriot Act would have provided legal backing for several aspects of the administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program. But officials said yesterday that was not the intent.
Most lawmakers and the public were not aware at the time that President Bush had already issued a secret order allowing the National Security Agency to intercept international calls involving U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Some critics of the NSA program said the draft legislation raises questions about recent administration claims that Bush had clear legal authority to order warrantless domestic spying in late 2001 and had no need to go to Congress for explicit approval.
“It’s rather damning to their current view that they didn’t need legislation,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a national security lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Clearly the lawyers at the Justice Department, or some of them, felt that legislation was needed to allow the government to do what it was doing.”