Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, said Friday George W. Bush "broke the law" by "personally authorizing the warrantless surveillance program."
Essentially, President Bush took it upon himself to ignore the clear requirement of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that all domestic intelligence-related electronic spying must have a warrant from a secret federal court, not just presidential approval. Illegal wiretapping is a felony under federal law.
The July 10 report by the inspectors general of the CIA, National Security Agency, Justice Department and Defense Department also didn't identify any specific terrorist attack that was thwarted by what was known as the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), although Bush has claimed publicly that his warrantless wiretapping "helped detect and prevent terrorist attacks on our own country."
In a 38-page unclassified report, the inspectors general said most U.S. intelligence officials who were interviewed "had difficulty citing specific instances where PSP reporting had directly contributed to counterterrorism successes."
The inspectors general "s report also makes clear that the full PSP was more expansive than the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the warrantless wiretapping that was revealed by the New York Times in December 2005. The TSP involved intercepting calls between the United States and overseas if one party was suspected of links to al-Qaeda or to an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
Though the undisclosed elements of the PSP remain highly classified, the report gave some hints to its scope by noting that the program originated from a post-9/11 White House request to NSA Director Michael Hayden to consider "what he might do with more authority."
Hayden then "put together information on what was operationally useful and technologically feasible," the report said. "The information formed the basis for the PSP."
In other words, the PSP stretched the limits of what the NSA could accomplish with its extraordinary capabilities to collect and analyze electronic communications around the world. Various journalistic accounts have suggested that Bush's spying program crossed the line from zeroing in on specific surveillance targets to "data-mining" a broad spectrum of electronic communications.
Suggesting that the government gathered information on many innocent people, the inspectors general stated that "the collection activities pursued under the PSP " ¦ involved unprecedented collection activities. We believe the retention and use by IC [intelligence community] organizations of information collected under the PSP " ¦ should be carefully monitored."
As with the torture policies, President Bush relied on exaggerations of dangers and on legal theories that were essentially pre-cooked.
Regarding the PSP, Bush's White House guided the CIA in hyping the threat of more terrorist attacks, the inspectors general found. At the end of the first CIA-prepared threat assessment after 9/11, the chief of staff for CIA Director George Tenet added a paragraph saying the groups discussed in the memo "possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States," the report said.