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Ex-NSA Head Bobby Ray Inman on the National Security Agency's Domestic Surveillance Program: "This Activity Was Not Authorized"

StoryMay 17, 2006
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Admiral Bobby Ray Inman has become the highest-ranking former NSA official to speak out about the domestic spy program. "There clearly was a line in the FISA statutes which says you couldn’t do this," said Inman last week in remarks that have received little attention. [includes rush transcript]

On Thursday the Senate Intelligence Committee will open its confirmation hearing for General Michael Hayden to become the next director of the CIA. Hayden is the former head of the National Security Agency who authorized the agency in 2001 to begin monitoring the phone calls of U.S. citizens without legally required court warrants.

While Hayden and the Bush administration have defended the secret domestic surveillance program, it is now being criticized by an unlikely source — a former director of the NSA. Last week Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who headed the NSA from 1977 to 1981, spoke in New York at a forum sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Century Foundation. It was part of the library’s Live at the NYPL series.

Besides an article at the website Wired News, Inman’s statements have received almost no media attention even though he is believed to the highest ranking former NSA official to speak out about the program. At the forum he disputed the Bush administration’s claim that Congress authorized the secret spy program when it authorized the president to use force following the Sept. 11 attacks. Inman also said the program clearly contradicts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which Congress passed in 1978 — at the time he was head of the National Security Agency.

  • Bobby Ray Inman, Former Director of the National Security Agency, speaking at a forum sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Century Foundation.
    - Full transcript of forum available

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who headed the NSA from 1977 to 1981, spoke in New York at a forum sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Century Foundation. It was part of the library’s "Live at the NYPL" series. Besides an article at the website wirednews, Inman’s statements have received almost no media attention, even though he’s believed to be the highest ranking former NSA official to speak out about the program. At the forum, he disputed the Bush administration’s claim that Congress authorized the secret spy program when it authorized the President to use force following the September 11th attacks. Inman also said the program clearly contradicts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in 1978, at the time he was head of the National Security Agency.

BOBBY RAY INMAN: My own view, this activity was not authorized by a resolution to use whatever force you need to do. There clearly was a line in the FISA statutes, which says you couldn’t do this.

AMY GOODMAN: Former NSA Director Bobby Ray Inman also said Congress should consider rewriting the FISA Act to account for changes in technology, but to prevent the administration from continuing to do what it’s doing.

BOBBY RAY INMAN: In carefully crafting legislation, you should leave the prospect of an emergency situation and a limited response to that emergency situation to then be followed by getting it by, because we — just as I didn’t envision in 1978 some of the things that popped up, that might happen again. What you want is to get away from this idea that they can continue doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: Bobby Ray Inman served as head of the NSA in the late 1970s.

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