A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.Later on in the article, there's some interesting stuff.
The Justice Department announced in January that eavesdropping without warrants under the Terrorist Surveillance Program had been halted, and that a special intelligence court was again overseeing the wiretapping. The N.S.A., the nation’s largest intelligence agency, generally eavesdrops on communications in foreign countries. Since the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, any eavesdropping to gather intelligence on American soil has required a warrant from the special court.In that it's a felony (an "offense") to eavesdrop in any way other than what's allowed by FISA. And:
In addition, court approval is required for the N.S.A. to search the databases of telephone calls or e-mail records, usually compiled by American phone and Internet companies and including phone numbers or e-mail addresses, as well as dates, times and duration of calls and messages. Sometimes called metadata, such databases do not include the content of the calls and e-mail messages — the actual words spoken or written.Now look at this part:
The first known assertion by administration officials that there had been no serious disagreement within the government about the legality of the N.S.A. program came in talks with New York Times editors in 2004. In an effort to persuade the editors not to disclose the eavesdropping program, senior officials repeatedly cited the lack of dissent as evidence of the program’s lawfulness.I seem to recall that the Times took some heat because it knew about the warrantless domestic surveillance before the 2004 election - and yet didn't say anything. Do you think dubya's administration was lying then about the "lack of dissent" in order to bolster the Republicans' chances in November of that year? For an administration that politicizes everything, I wouldn't be surprised at all.
The dispute, it seems, was not about the program itself, but the data that the program sifted through. Yea, that makes sense.
Mr. Gonzales defended the surveillance in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006, saying there had been no internal dispute about its legality. He told the senators: “There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into.”
By limiting his remarks to “the program the president has confirmed,” Mr. Gonzales skirted any acknowledgment of the heated arguments over the data mining. He said the Justice Department had issued a legal analysis justifying the eavesdropping program.
But even the Times misses one:
On Tuesday, to respond to Mr. Comey’s account, Mr. Gonzales testified in a Senate appearance that he went to the hospital only after meeting with Congressional leaders about the impending deadline for the reauthorization. He said the consensus was that the program should go on, so he felt he had no choice but to seek Mr. Ashcroft’s approval.Where's the mention that this is also completely wrong? Take a look:
Perhaps it depends on what the definition of "consensus" is.
Tom Daschle. Jay Rockefeller. And now Nancy Pelosi.
That makes three members of the Gang of Eight -- the bipartisan congressional leadership briefed about President Bush's warrantless surveillance -- to dispute Alberto Gonzales's testimony that the Gang demanded the surveillance continue after a March 2004 briefing telling them that acting Attorney General James Comey refused to reauthorize the program.