After James Risen's "State of War" was published it was revealed that, following 9/11, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on communications between individuals outside the United States and citizens inside the country. Previously such wiretapping could be done only with the authorization of a special court established by a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
On IEEE Spectrum Radio, William Sweet asks independent journalist and author James Bamford about his reaction to the Bush Administration's decision. Bamford, who has written extensively about the NSA and its activities, reveals that the NSA's actions in the years following the September 11th attacks on the United States were a dramatic departure from decades of obeying wiretap laws. He had the opportunity to interview various NSA personnel, none of whom indicated there was any departure from previous policy.
Sweet and Bamford discuss the reasons the Bush Administration may have changed their policy on wiretapping and the legal and - more importantly - constitutional implications. Besides policy changes, Bamford also shares his knowledge on how techologically capable the NSA is when intercepting electronic communications, including their influence on major telephony carriers within the US. According to Bamford, the NSA has returned to its 1978 state, when they actively wiretapped anti-war protestors and independent journalists.
This program was originally broadcast on IEEE Spectrum Radio.
James Bamford, is an independent journalist and the author of two books about the ultrasecretive NSA, "The Puzzle Palace," and "Body of Secrets." He also wrote "A Pretext for War," about the decision by the United States to invade Iraq, which was published in 2004. He attended law school on the GI Bill after three years of service with the US Navy. Bamford lectures nationally and is a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been Washington Investigative Producer for ABC's World News Tonight.
Bamford is party, with four other people, in a lawsuit brought against the Bush administration by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in New York. The suit seeks to halt the NSA's warrantless domestic eavesdropping and to determine whether the electronic communications of parties to the suit have been monitored.
William Sweet (host) is the senior news editor for the IEEE Spectrum magazine.
This free podcast is from our IEEE Spectrum Radio series.