Time repeats administration claim that NSA program targets those with "known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations"

››› ››› KURT DONALDSON

In a May 5 online article, Time magazine reporters Mike Allen and Timothy J. Burger wrote that the Bush administration's controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program targets domestic phone calls "if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations." In fact, media reports have revealed that the NSA has monitored the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

In a May 5 online article, Time magazine reporters Mike Allen and Timothy J. Burger wrote that the Bush administration's controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program targets domestic phone calls "if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations." In fact, media reports have revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has not limited its wiretaps to such people, but instead has monitored the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

As Media Matters for America noted (here and here), media reports about the warrantless surveillance program contradict the notion that it is limited to suspects with "known links" to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, as the Time article suggests. A February 5 Washington Post report quoting "current and former government officials" said that "[i]ntelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat." The New York Times similarly reported on January 17 that "[m]ore than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials," some of whom knew of the domestic spying program, "said the torrent of tips [from NSA wiretapping] led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive." As the Post also reported, out of the thousands of Americans whose communications have been monitored by the NSA over the past few years, fewer than 10 a year have aroused enough suspicion that federal courts granted permission for monitoring of their purely domestic communications.

From a May 5 Time.com article about the resignation of former CIA director Porter J. Goss and his replacement, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former deputy director of national intelligence and former head of the NSA:

It was Hayden who appeared in the White House briefing room in December to defend a highly classified National Security Agency program that includes interception of domestic phone calls and e-mail messages without warrants if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Hayden said at the National Press Club in January: "It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about. This is targeted and focused."

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
Time Magazine
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