This huge New York Times article is a must read. Print it and save it. Much will be made of this either because of what it claims or implies about Bush "secretly" authorizing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans (never mind that the thing was published today rather than yesterday or tomorrow), or because it will be seen to be nothing strange (or illegal) at all, if you read a couple of pages into the article you will see why. Let’s assume for the moment that the title of the article (and the first paragraph) is revealing of the truth in its stark naked simplicity. Let’s assume that. How does the New York Times know this piece of information? The answer is (as Powerline notes) probably this: someone within the so-called intelligence community leaked the information. Not good. The leaker ought to be found. (Do note that the White House asked the Times not to publish the article; the Times waited one year, apparently not that concerned about civil rights for that period; odd; and then why publish it today?). Note these pregnant paragraphs and the fact mentioned later that Congressional leaders from both parties were briefed and continued to be briefed about the program, as was the FISA court (also note that no one who had been briefed--Democrat or Republican--has taken the opportunity to comment on the program). I am betting that in the public debates about Patriot Act today (so far, it is defeated, and CAIR--ever so concerned about civil liberties--applauds the defeat) no Democrat who used this article to sow doubt about the Administration had been on the intelligence committee and been briefed. Did Rockefeller participate in that debate?
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists’ computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, they said.
In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.
Under the agency’s longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in the United States by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.
There will be more on this, you can count on it.