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General News    H3'ed 5/21/09

Claims Graham Briefed About Domestic Spying in 2001 and 2002 Also Bogus

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Tuesday, 19 May 2009 18:37

Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham disclosed in 2007 that an intelligence document which claimed he was briefed about the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program on two dates in 2001 and 2002 were untrue when compared to his own schedule, which showed that no such briefings ever took place.

Graham also said at the time that he was never told during briefings he attended that were chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney, then-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, and then-CIA Director George Tenet, that the Bush administration planned to spy on American citizens.

The statements Graham made in 2005 are virtually identical to the denials he has recently made in response to claims by the CIA that he and other Democratic and Republican lawmakers were told in classified briefings that the agency had been using so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" against high-value detainees. Graham's comments--then and now--lend enormous weight to assertions by top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that they were not fully apprised about two of the Bush administration's most controversial programs.

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Immediately after the New York Times revealed in December 2005 that the Bush administration had been spying on Americans without warrants, Graham reacted to the news by disclosing that he was never fully briefed about the extent of the White House's warrantless wiretapping activities.

In fact, one of the dates in which Graham had said the Bush administration erroneously claimed four years ago that he was briefed about domestic spying--April 10, 2002--occurred during the same month that Graham said the CIA told him that he had been briefed about the interrogation of high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah. But Graham said in both cases no briefing ever took place.

Graham confirmed in an interview with Nightline on Dec. 15, 2005 that he attended meetings in Cheney's office and discussed surveillance activities, but said that neither Cheney nor Hayden spoke about a plan to spy on Americans.

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"The issue was whether we could intercept foreign communications when they transited through U.S. communication sites," Graham said. "The assumption was that if we did that, we would do it pursuant to the law, the law that regulates the surveillance of national security issues. And there was no suggestion that we were going to begin eavesdropping on United States citizens without following the full law.

"There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to use that as the subterfuge to begin unwarranted, illegal--and I think unconstitutional==eavesdropping on American citizens."

Graham suggested that Cheney and intelligence officials had lied to him and his colleagues.

"I think there has been a selective use of information to build a case that was already determined, rather than using intelligence for its intended purpose, which is to improve the decision-making process on a judgment that has not yet been determined."

The Bush administration said the briefings began on Oct. 25, 2001 (a date Graham said his journal showed that no briefings took place), shortly after President Bush signed a highly classified executive order that removed certain legal restrictions against spying on U.S. citizens. According to the book, Angler, before Graham attended his first briefing, Bush told the senator that "the vice president should be your point of contact in the White House." Cheney, the president said, "has the portfolio for intelligence activities."

After Graham revealed in 2005 that he was not fully briefed about the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program, Cheney, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration officials and Republican lawmakers went into defense mode, much like they are are doing now over claims that Democrats were fully briefed on torture.  

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In an interview with Nightline on Dec. 18, 2005, Cheney said Graham, as well as other members of Congress knew that the administration intended to spy on Americans' phone calls.

"He knew," Cheney said. "I sat in my office with Gen. Hayden, who was then the head of NSA, who's now the deputy director of the National Intelligence Directorate, and he was briefed as long as he was chairman of the committee, or ranking member of the committee."

The Washington Post in December 2005 quoted an unnamed, "high-ranking intelligence official"- who said Graham is "misremembering the briefings."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 
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