Startling revelations about U.S. domestic spying programs were revealed in newly declassified documents on Saturday, Americans.org has learned.
According to the documents former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress about the dispute between George W. Bush’s White House and the Justice Department over the legality of the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying program.
The documents were released Saturday from the inspectors general of the Defense Department, Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, and the National Security Agency and concerned their investigations of the surveillance programs initiated by then-President Bush after the Sept. 11th, terrorist attacks.
They show that intelligence and law-enforcement agencies had sharply divided views on Bush’s emergency order authorizing the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone and Internet data on all American citizens.
While the report, which was dated July 10, 2009, concerned programs that ran under Bush’s emergency authorizations from 2001 to 2007 these program continue and have been expanded in recent years. The level of surveillance conducted without warrants on the U.S. population currently sits at all-time highs.
The unprecedented surveillance has been documented by press accounts and the leak of classified materials in 2013 by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Snowden revelations exposed the immense scope of our government's intelligence gathering and highlighted the extent to which the programs undermine crucial civil-liberties protections, especially Fourth Amendment defenses against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Surveillance records of all U.S. citizens are included in the data sweeps.
The report released Saturday is most notable due to the conclusion that the Bush administration misled Congress about the major dispute within the government over the legality of the spying programs.
The inspectors general wrote that Gonzales offered patently inaccurate information when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006 and July 2007, where he stated that the program wasn’t the source of a disagreement between the White House and the Justice Department.
In actual fact several senior Justice Department officials were on the brink of resignation in March 2004 over a fight with the Bush administration about whether or not the programs were legal.
This culminated in a dramatic encounter at the hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft that led Gonzales, then White House counsel, to sign the president’s expiring authorization for the spying program, instead of Ashcroft, who was recovering from surgery and refused. It is thought Ashcroft understood the programs to be illegal.
“This testimony created the misimpression that the dispute concerned activities entirely unrelated to the terrorist surveillance program, which was not accurate,” the report's authors wrote.
In addition to highlighting the lies that were used to force the spying programs through, the report also shows that the legal basis for the unprecedented spying on Americans is highly questionable and probably non-existent.