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Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060204/ap_on_go_pr_wh/ford_era_spying Papers: Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps By MARGARET EBRAHIM, Associated Press Writer 40
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060204/ap_on_go_pr_wh/ford_era_spying

      Papers: Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps

      By MARGARET EBRAHIM, Associated Press Writer 40
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - An intense debate erupted during the Ford
      administration over the president's powers to
      eavesdrop without warrants to gather foreign
      intelligence, according to government documents.
      George H.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are
      cited in the documents.

      The roughly 200 pages of historic records obtained by
      The Associated Press reflect a remarkably similar
      dispute between the White House and Congress fully
      three decades before President Bush's acknowledgment
      he authorized wiretaps without warrants of some
      Americans in terrorism investigations.

      "Yogi Berra was right: It's deja vu all over again,"
      said Tom Blanton, executive director for the National
      Security Archive, a nongovernment research group at
      George Washington University. "It's the same debate."

      Senate Judiciary Committee hearings begin Monday over
      Bush's authority to approve such wiretaps by the
      ultra-secretive National Security Agency without a
      judge's approval. A focus of the hearings is to
      determine whether the Bush administration's
      eavesdropping program violated the Foreign
      Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law with
      origins during Ford's presidency.

      "We strongly believe it is unwise for the president to
      concede any lack of constitutional power to authorize
      electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence
      purposes," wrote Robert Ingersoll, then-deputy
      secretary of state, in a 1976 memorandum to President
      Ford about the proposed bill on electronic
      surveillance.

      George H.W. Bush, then director of the CIA, wanted to
      ensure "no unnecessary diminution of collection of
      important foreign intelligence" under the proposal to
      require judges to approve terror wiretaps, according
      to a March 1976 memorandum he wrote to the Justice
      Department. Bush also complained that some major
      communications companies were unwilling to install
      government wiretaps without a judge's approval. Such a
      refusal "seriously affects the capabilities of the
      intelligence community," Bush wrote.

      In another document, Jack Marsh, a White House
      adviser, outlined options for Ford over the wiretap
      legislation. Marsh alerted Ford to objections by Bush
      as CIA director and by Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and
      Brent Scowcroft over the scope of a provision to
      require judicial oversight of wiretaps. At the time,
      Rumsfeld was defense secretary, Kissinger was
      secretary of state and Scowcroft was the White House
      national security adviser.

      Some experts weren't surprised the cast of characters
      in this national debate remained largely unchanged
      over 30 years.

      "People don't change their stripes," said Kenneth C.
      Bass a former senior Justice Department lawyer who
      oversaw such wiretap requests during the Carter
      administration.

      The National Security Archive separately obtained many
      of the same documents as the AP and intended to
      publish them on its Web site Saturday.

      The documents include one startling similarity to
      Washington's current atmosphere over disclosures of
      classified information by the media. Notes from a 1975
      meeting between Cheney, then White House chief of
      staff, then-Attorney General Edward Levi and others
      cite the "problem" of a New York Times article by
      Seymour Hersh about U.S. submarines spying inside
      Soviet waters. Participants considered a formal
      FBI investigation of Hersh and the Times and searching
      Hersh's apartment "to go after (his) papers," the
      document said.

      "I was surprised," Hersh said in a telephone interview
      Friday. "I was surprised that they didn't know I had a
      house and a mortgage."

      One option outlined at the 1975 meeting was to "ignore
      the Hersh story and hope it doesn't happen again."
      Participants worried about "will we get hit with
      violating the First Amendment to the Constitution?"

      CIA Director Porter Goss told lawmakers this week that
      recent disclosures about sensitive programs were
      severely damaging, and he urged prosecutors to impanel
      a grand jury to determine "who is leaking this
      information." The National Security Agency earlier
      asked the Justice Department to open a formal leaks
      investigation over press reports of its terrorism
      wiretaps.

      ___

      Associated Press writer Ted Bridis contributed to this report.
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