Analysis: Obama urged to get to bottom of NSA warrantless wiretap scheme

Patrick Keefe, Century Foundation fellow and author of Chatter: Uncovering the Echelon Surveillance Network and the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, has published an editorial in The New York Times urging US Congress and President-Elect Barack Obama to engage in a “thorough course correction on domestic surveillance”. Keefe describes the post-9/11 enhancement of the domestic wiretapping powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) as a direct violation of “one of the signature prohibitions of the post-Watergate era”, which allowed the US government to turn “its formidable eavesdropping apparatus on its own citizens”. Keefe further cites former Bush Administration lawyer, Jack Goldsmith, who condemned NSA’s domestic wiretapping scheme as “the biggest legal mess” he had ever seen. He also recounts the revelation that former US Attorney General threatened to resign over the NSA program in March of 2004, and asks an intriguing question: “[w]hat transgression was so appalling that it made John Ashcroft look like a civil libertarian?”. By blocking all requests for access to the relevant documents, Bush Administration lawyers are currently preventing all attempts to answer Keefe’s question. In the editorial, Keefe commends Barack Obama’s pledge to have his Attorney General “conduct a comprehensive review” of the domestic NSA surveillance, but says “it is not enough”. What he wants to see is Congress taking the lead in conducting public hearings on the wiretapping programs, with witnesses being granted immunity “in exchange for candid testimony”. [IA]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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