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Justice Department probes eavesdropping leak

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=fundLaunches&storyID=2005-12-30T203013Z_01_EIC055795_RTRUKOC_0_US-SECURITY-EAVESDROPPING.xml US probes
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30, 2005

      US probes eavesdropping leak
      Fri Dec 30, 2005 3:30 PM ET17

      By Deborah Charles

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is
      investigating who disclosed a secret domestic
      eavesdropping operation approved by President George
      W. Bush after the September 11 attacks, officials said
      on Friday.

      "We are opening an investigation into the unauthorized
      disclosure of classified materials related to the
      NSA," a Justice Department official said on condition
      of anonymity.

      Earlier this month, Bush acknowledged the program and
      called its disclosure to The New York Times "a
      shameful act." He said he presumed the Justice
      Department would investigate who leaked the National
      Security Agency eavesdropping operation to the

      White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters that
      Bush was informed on Friday about the Justice
      Department probe. He said the decision to conduct the
      investigation was made by the department -- it was not
      requested by the White House.

      News of the covert domestic spying program sparked
      outcry by Democrats and Republicans, with many
      lawmakers and rights groups questioning whether it
      violates the U.S. Constitution.

      Several lawmakers have backed a planned hearing on the
      issue by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen
      Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

      Bush and senior administration officials have argued
      that the policy of authorizing -- without court orders
      -- eavesdropping on international phone calls and
      e-mails by Americans suspected of links to terrorism
      was legal and necessary to help defend the country
      after September 11.

      A 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
      makes it illegal to spy on U.S. citizens in the United
      States without the approval of a special, secret
      court. Bush secretly gave the NSA authority to
      intercept communications without such approval.


      The American Civil Liberties Union has urged the
      government to name a special counsel to determine
      whether Bush violated federal wiretapping laws by
      authorizing illegal surveillance.

      In a statement on Friday, the ACLU criticized the
      Justice Department's investigation.

      "President Bush broke the law and lied to the American
      people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps
      of U.S. citizens," said ACLU executive director
      Anthony Romero.

      "But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis,
      Attorney General (Alberto) Gonzales is cracking down
      on critics of his friend and boss," he said. "Our
      nation is strengthened, not weakened by those
      whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out
      on violations of the law."

      The White House has sought to play down the impact on
      civil liberties, saying the program was narrow in
      scope and that key congressional leaders were briefed
      about it.

      In its first report on the spying program two weeks
      ago, The New York Times said about a dozen current and
      former officials agreed to discuss it anonymously,
      because of their concerns about the operation's
      legality and oversight.

      The newspaper said it was asked by the White House not
      to publish an article about the program because it
      could jeopardize investigations and alert potential
      terrorists that they were under scrutiny.

      The Times said it delayed publication for a year and
      omitted some information that administration officials
      argued could be useful to terrorists.

      The New York Times declined to comment on the

      This is the second recent high-level investigation
      into the leak of classified information to the media.

      After a two-year probe into the disclosure of a covert
      CIA operative's identity, a special prosecutor in
      October indicted Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of
      staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby on perjury and
      obstructing justice charges.

      That investigation is still continuing.

      (Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Crawford,
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