Through executive orders or more often clandestine powers that he believes he possesses as a "wartime President, " Bush has ordered the Pentagon, FBI, NSA and CIA to expand domestic spying operations to levels never before seen by professional operations.
"It is unbelievable, " says a former CIA operative who resigned in disgust rather than spy on his own country. "We spend more time gathering intel on Americans than we do on real enemies of our country. "
Under orders from Bush, the military has sent agents out to infiltrate anti-war groups, liberal organizations and even workforces of municipal governments considered to be opponents of the administration. In Vermont, a group of Quakers discovered a Pentagon spy in their midst.
"Pentagon spies do not belong in Pittsburgh, in Philadelphia or in State College, " says Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "We don 't need the military to protect us from lawful protests by concerned citizens. "
The national ACLU filed a similar FOIA request on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice and Greenpeace. Other ACLU affiliates are seeking Pentagon files on local groups in Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, and California.
"The Pentagon 's monitoring of anti-war protesters is yet another example of a government agency using its powers to spy on law-abiding Americans who criticize U.S. policies, " said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the national ACLU. "How can we believe that the National Security Agency is intercepting only al Qaeda phone calls when we have evidence that the Pentagon is keeping tabs on student activists in Pittsburgh? "
According to my contacts within the American intelligence community, the NSA is not intercepting "only al Qaeda phone calls " because the agency cannot limit its monitoring to just such calls. NSA must "cast a wide net, " monitoring thousands upon thousands of phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans in the hope of capturing just one phone call from an an-Qaeda member.
"In reality, we 're monitoring all phone calls, all emails, all forms of electronic communications, " admits a longtime NSA operative. "We listen to everyone in hopes of picking up a certain word or phrase. "
The FBI weekly issues thousands of "National Security Letters " which orders banks, employers and other entities to turn over information about Americans and forbids those same agencies from revealing they released the information. Bush wants to expand use of the national security letters but that provision in the revised USA Patriot Act has stalled permanent reauthorization as Congress granted a five-week extension Thursday while lawmakers try to work out a compromise.
In Vermont, more than half that state 's legislators have signed a letter requesting that Gov. James Douglas' Homeland Security Advisory Council denounce President Bush's domestic spying program.
Federal law is supposed to prohibit using the NSA to spy on Americans and many legal scholars say Bush violated that law by signing executive orders authorizing the domestic spying program.
"This is one of the most serious constitutional crises that we've ever faced in the country," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor. Turley added the president's claim of executive authority based on Article II "would put our system on a slippery slope."