Follow the Bouncing Ball
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency 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.February 3, Chairman Roberts writes:
The terrorist surveillance program targets only the international communications of persons within the United States where there is "a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda."He also quoted Michael Hayden writing:
It is not a driftnet… grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices.Later, Roberts wrote to the Judiciary committee:
As Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I also believe that the President has met his obligations under Title V of the National Security Act of 1947. … While briefings to all members and staff may represent a preferred method of notification of intelligence activities … the congressional intelligence committees have historically acquiesced to requests by the Executive branch to limit access to particularly sensitive matters – even when only the Chairman and Vice Chairman were notified.
I think that they do—I don’t know, this—I have some memory pills, I think everybody here ought to take a memory pill every morning on the recollection of, you know, what really went on, because that’s not my recollection.February 16:
The Senate Intelligence Committee decided today not to investigate President Bush's domestic surveillance program, at least for the time being.March 7:
"I believe that such an investigation is currently unwarranted and would be detrimental to this highly classified program," Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and chairman of the panel, said this afternoon following a closed session.
Roberts, in an interview with Knight Ridder, said he had to persuade the White House to accept his proposal for a sub-panel of his committee to receive detailed briefings about operations of the secret program.May 17, speaking of the decision to expand briefings to the full committee:
"It's something we should have done five years ago ... at the inception of the program," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the intelligence committee. "We have reached an accommodation (with the White House). I think it's a good accommodation."…Today, the memory pills stop working:
under a deal that Roberts struck with the White House in March, only seven of the Senate committee's 15 members have been given details of the NSA program.
It's the job of the Senate Intelligence Committee to oversee the intelligence community, ensuring that it's protecting Americans against a vicious enemy while respecting civil liberties.The problem is that people don't trust him or the other Republicans who are supposed to be overseeing this program. And all he gives us is "trust me" and then lies about how the program is restricted international calls by specific people, when the NSA working to keep records on every call Americans make. And when he lies about the oversight that exists and the extent of the program, it really doesn't make me more willing to trust him.
With respect to the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, the committee is doing its job. It's very secret, and oversight must be conducted in a closed environment.
At my insistence, we have expanded oversight from two members of the committee to all 15 members.