Nancy Pelosi Spoils a Perfectly Good "Bush Broke Law" Letter

The very day Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) delivered to the White House her “Bush broke the law” letter, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decided to publish declassified letters in the Washington Post and New York Times that put the blame on the NSA and support the Bush Administration.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told President Bush Wednesday that the White House broke the law by withholding information from the full congressional oversight committees about a new domestic surveillance program:

In a letter to Bush, Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said the National Security Act requires the heads of the various intelligence agencies to keep the entire House and Senate intelligence committees “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.”

Only in the case of a highly classified covert action can the president choose to inform a narrower group of Congress members about his decision, Harman said. That action is defined in the law as an operation to influence political, economic or military conditions of another country.

“The NSA program does not qualify as a ‘covert action,'” Harman wrote.

Bush and his senior national security aides have said that appropriate members of Congress were briefed more than a dozen times about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance operations, which Bush first approved the month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The highly classified sessions are known to include the “Gang of Eight,” which is made up of the top Republican and Democrat in the House and Senate and on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

But, in a strange miscommunication in support of the Bush Administration yesterday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi declassified personal documents for the Washington Post that claim the NSA had already met with the House Intelligence Committee on October 1, 2001, three weeks after 9-11. This information came from Pelosi’s letter back in October, 2001:

On Oct. 1, 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was running the National Security Agency at the time, told the House intelligence committee that the agency was broadening its surveillance authorities, according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff.

Also, yesterday, the New York Times discussed Pelosi’s memo back in October, 2001, and pointed out that it was the NSA acting on its own, and NOT President Bush, who decided to expand domestic surveillance operations:

The National Security Agency acted on its own authority, without a formal directive from President Bush, to expand its domestic surveillance operations in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency’s legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.

Ms. Pelosi’s letter, which was declassified at her request, showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency’s domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.

The letter from Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, also suggested that the security agency, whose mission is to eavesdrop on foreign communications, moved immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks to identify terror suspects at home by loosening restrictions on domestic eavesdropping.

It looks like a bit of a miscommunication by the democrats. It also makes you wonder if Karl Rove is really necessary?… Or, has he infiltrated the House Minority ranks?

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