Former NSA director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman lashed out at the Bush administration Monday night over its continued use of warrantless domestic wiretaps and called for the CIA to be broken up in two. It’s one of the first times a former high-ranking intelligence official has criticized the program in public, analysts say.
“This activity is not authorized,” Inman said, as part of a panel discussion on eavesdropping, sponsored by the New York Public Library. The Bush administration “need[s] to get away from the idea that they can continue doing it.”
Since the NSA eavesdropping program was unveiled in December, Inman like other senior members of the intelligence community has been measured in the public statements he’s made about the agency he headed under President Jimmy Carter. He maintained that his former analysts “only act in accordance with law.” When asked whether the president had the legal authority to order the wiretaps, Inman replied, “someone else would have to give you the good answer.”
But sitting in a brightly-lit, basement auditorium at the Library, next to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the surveillance story, Inman’s tone changed. He called on the President to “walk into the modern world” and change the law governing the wiretaps or abandon the program altogether.
“The program has drawn a lot of criticism, but thus far former military and intelligence officials have not spoken up. To have Admiral Inman the former head of the NSA — come forward with this critique is significant,” said Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, who sat on the panel with Inman and Risen. “Because of the secrecy surrounding this type of activity, much of the criticism has come from outsiders who don’t have a firm grasp of the mechanics and the utility of electronic intelligence. Inman knows whereof he speaks.”
My Wired News article has details.
UPDATE 5:02 PM: While Inman was generally supportive of General Michael Hayden, George Bush’s pick for CIA director, and Inman’s NSA successor — despite the fact that the Hayden was the guy running the questionable domestic surveillance project. Even his critics, Inman said, have given Hayden “high marks” for refocusing the agency on terrorism.
Most of ’em, anyway. NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, to put it mildly, hates Hayden’s guts. Echoing TPM Muckraker allegations that “between 1999 and 2005, the NSA bungled two key technology programs and… has been burning through billions — billions — of dollars,” Tice tells Defense Tech:
Through his mismanagement, many critical SIGINT missions were not funded and the intelligence needed and depended on was not collected. Perhaps 911 could have been avoided if NSA had those assets in place and did not waste all that money…
He lied about the NSA being involved in domestic spying and continues to lie about the enormous scope of those programs. He stated NSAer know about the Forth Amendment to the Constitution and in the same breath proved that he did not have a clue about it hinging on “probable cause” not reasonableness. He forgot to mention that he also violated the FISA Act and NSA’s own policy on domestic Spying (USSID-18).
To be frank, he is a self promoter, an ass-kisser, an accomplished liar, an oath breaker, an extremely poor manager, a sadist, a criminal, and a proven domestic enemy of the Constitution of the United States. Oh, and a piss-poor all-source intelligence officer to boot. He should have remained an air opps officer restricted to the flight ready-room.
To sum Hayden up in a few words, he is dishonorable and without integrity.
In would appear that the president will not tolerate a lap-dog like Porter Goss that barks now and again. Hayden will lift his leg and squat all over the constitutional carpet, but while in the lap of the man who sits the newly erected thrown, Hayden will wag his tail and only open his mouth to lick his master’s face.
Lord help us!
UPDATE 6:35 PM: Inman also emphasized something Defense Tech has been saying since the start of this scandal: that your average spook finds the idea of spying on Americans downright revolting.
One of Inman’s “proudest moments” as NSA director was when senior employees told him not to pursue a legally fishy operation, he noted. “It’s deeply ingrained in you that you operate within the law.”
UPDATE 6:40 PM: In addition, Inman put to bed the notion that the NSA’s domestic eavesdropping program only examined the links between terror suspects — not the contents of the conversations themselves. Is this all about who-called-who? “No, it isn’t,” he answered, on his way out the door (he had to leave quick, because of a bout of food poisoning). For voice communications, which are tough to search, that might be the case, he added. But with e-mail? No way.