CIA Played a Leading Role in Warrantless Surveillance

Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm

What do I mean when I say that the inspectors general report on warrantless surveillance shows a larger role for CIA in the post-9/11 surveillance efforts than has been previously disclosed? According to the report, CIA would prepare a threat briefing for President Bush justifying the need for such surveillance. Then-CIA Director George Tenet’s chief of staff was in charge of compiling such a report:

According to the former DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] Chief of Staff, he directed CIA terrorism analysts to prepare objective appraisals of the current terrorist threat, focusing primarily on threats to the U.S. homeland, and to document those appraisals in a memorandum. Initially, the analysts who prepared the threat assessments were not read into the PSP [President's Surveillance Program] and did not know how the threat assessments would be used. …

After the terrorism analysts completed their portion of the memoranda, the DCI Chief of Staff added a paragraph at the end of the memoranda stating that the individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism (and discussed in the memoranda) possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States. The DCI Chief of Staff recalled that the paragraph was provided to him by a senior White House official. The paragraph included the DCI’s recommendation to the President that he authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance activities under the PSP.

Then the agency lawyers would vet the assessment to determine whether there was “a compelling case for reauthorization of the” surveillance. Tenet or his deputy, John McLaughlin, would sign it. Then the Department of Justice lawyers would get involved. By 2005, owing to bureaucratic changes, the responsibility for approving this threat assessment every 45 days passed to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the responsibility for drafting it went to the National Counterterrorism Center

By the way, White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan was indeed Tenet’s chief of staff in 2001, but he had moved on before 9/11, becoming deputy executive director in spring 2001. John Moseman was Tenet’s chief of staff on 9/11 and afterwards.

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Comment posted July 11, 2009 @ 4:54 am

Good find Spencer.

Comment posted July 12, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

“larger role for CIA in the post-9/11 surveillance efforts than has been previously disclosed?” A rogue Agency? Cut their funding! #fb

calling for a special prosecutor at ANGRYVOTERS.ORG


Comment posted July 13, 2009 @ 12:02 am


I am not sure that this is necessarily out of bounds. It indicates only two things:

1) Prior to the standup of the ODNI, it would have been a *good* thing for the DCI (now DCIA) to have the reins, as it would mean that DOD/NSA/DIA, FBI and NCIX were working in coordination with the CIA — fusing intelligence, not doing things their way. DCI should properly have been the person briefing the President on this.

2) It does not indicate to me that CIA was *operating* beyond its mandate. That might have been, but nothing in this quote per se suggests it. What it does suggest is that the CIA had the best *analytical* dossiers on persons of interest.

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