Since Hayden's next-to-last job was directing the National Security Agency, the nomination provides administration opponents with another opportunity to explore NSA spying. Hayden created the program and defended it publicly -- even though prominent conservatives also vigorously opposed it.
I haven't had a chance to read James Risen's latest book on the CIA, but I recently read a good review in the April 2006 Progressive that includes extensive excerpts from the "sensational" NSA chapter.
Perhaps Congress will further inquire into some of Risen's allegations, which I cannot find on-line (save for the Ebsco subscriber database):
"the NSA is spying on Americans again, on a large scale," Risen writes. How large is that scale? "Over time, the NSA has certainly eavesdropped on millions of telephone calls and e-mail messages on American soil," he writes. And it has the capacity to spy on all of us.Since some Republicans are already expressing dissent about Hayden's appointment, we can hope that these issues will be explored more thoroughly.
"With its direct access to the U.S. telecommunications system, there seems to be no physical or logistical obstacle to prevent the NSA from eavesdropping on anyone in the United States that it chooses," Risen notes. He adds that it can grab the "e-mail of virtually any American."
Bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, "the NSA determines, on its own, which telephone numbers and e-mail addresses to monitor," Risen explains. "The NSA doesn't have to get approval from the White House, the Justice Department, or anyone else in the Bush Administration before it begins eavesdropping on a specific phone line in the United States."
Risen persuasively shows that Bush's approval of the NSA warrantless spying "made a mockery of the public debate over the Patriot Act," which gave no new powers to the NSA.
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