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Report: Bush permitted spying in US after 9/11
(AP)
Updated: 2005-12-16 14:11

US President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without getting search warrants following the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times reports.

The presidential order, which Bush signed in 2002, has allowed the agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States, according to a story posted Thursday on the Times' Web site.

Before the new program began, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders to do so. Under the post-Sept. 11 program, the NSA has eavesdropped, without warrants, on as many 500 people inside the United States at any given time. Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time.

The Times said reporters interviewed nearly a dozen current and former administration officials about the program and granted them anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

Government officials credited the new program with uncovering several terrorist plots, including one by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting al-Qaida by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, the report said.

But some NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group's initial reaction to the disclosure was "shock that the administration has gone so far in violating American civil liberties to the extent where it seems to be a violation of federal law."

Asked about the administration's contention that the eavesdropping has disrupted terrorist attacks, Fredrickson said the ACLU couldn't comment until it sees some evidence. "They've veiled these powers in secrecy so there's no way for Congress or any independent organizations to exercise any oversight."

The Bush administration had briefed congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues.

Aides to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment Thursday night.

The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.



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