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How did a massive (and illegal) NSA surveillance program come into existence after 9/11? A new government report makes it clear that members of both parties just didn't care much about legality in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
This past Friday, the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released an unclassified summary of a report that fills in key details of the problems and controversies surrounding the large-scale electronic surveillance efforts that president George W. B
Compartments: TSP, OIA, and the anatomy of the black box
In the wake of 9/11, the NSA asked for and received a slate of new surveillance powers, all of which were authorized in a single Presidential Authorization. The program authorized by this directive, which had to be reauthorized every 45 days or so, was called the Presidential Surveillance Program (PSP), and we might not know about any of it if it hadn't been for the New York Times, which shed light on one part of the PSP in a blockbuster article of December 2005.
The part that the NYT uncovered, which involved the NSA listening in on the electronic communications of suspected terrorists without a warrant, was later acknowledged by the White House and labeled the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Importantly, the OIG report reveals that there are parts of the PSP that are not part of the TSP. The number and nature of these still-secret PSP components is not publicly known, so the report lumps them all together under the heading of Other Intelligence Activities (OIA) in order to distinguish them from the now-public TSP. (So, just to be clear: PSP = TSP + OIA, where the OIA is basically every part of the PSP that hasn't been uncovered by the media.)
The real shocker in the report is that it was clearly the OIA that included the most illegal parts of the PSP, and the ones that provoked the dramatic 2004 showdown between the DOJ, FBI, and the White House.