Contradicting a statement by ex-vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday that warrantless domestic surveillance might have prevented 9/11, 2007 court records indicate that the Bush-Cheney administration began such surveillance at least 7 months prior to 9/11.
The Bush administration bypassed the law requiring such actions to be authorized by FISA court warrants, the body set up in the Seventies to oversee Executive Branch spying powers after abuses by Richard Nixon. Former QWest CEO John Nacchios said that at a meeting with the NSA on February 27, 2001, he and other QWest officials declined to participate. AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth all agreed to shunt customer communications records to an NSA database.
In 2007 the Denver Post reported:
“Nacchio suggested that the NSA sought phone, Internet and other customer records from Qwest in early 2001. When he refused to hand over the information, the agency retaliated by not granting lucrative contracts to the Denver-based company, he claimed.”
Other sources corroborate the former CEO’s allegations, which were made in the course of his legal defense against insider trading charges. Both Slate.com and National Journal have published reports in which sources are quoted which support the former CEO’s claims.
Speaking on “FOX News Sunday” this weekend in defense of the Obama administration’s NSA PRISM program, which has caused a national uproar over the sweeping intrusion by the government into American citizens’ emails, live chats, and other electronic communications, Cheney said:
“Now, as everybody has been associated with the program said if we had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego, two hijackers, able to use that program, that capability against the target, we might have been able to prevent 9/11,”
However, the presence of such powers in the hands of the present administration did not succeed in preventing the Boston Marathon attacks, even though the suspects were already well-known to the FBI, and one allegedly told law enforcement, while in the hospital, that they were able to “download plans for pressure cooker bombs from the Internet.
In the same interview on “Fox news Sunday” Cheney called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a “traitor.”
In 2004, an AT&T technician filed a class action lawsuit against AT&T for engaging in an illegal domestic-surveillance program at the behest of the government. The Bush administration accessed major routers owned by telecommunications companies, in cities such as San Francisco, to divert traffic onto NSA mirror sites in order to capture vast volumes of data.
The Bush-Cheney administration fought fiercely to pass legislation which granted telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution for violating Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution. The legislation was passed in 2008. UK Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald argued that the unprecedented “retroactive” immunity would also give the Bush administration immunity as well, by preventing lawsuits from moving forward into the discovery phase, where wrongdoing was likely to be uncovered.
Nevertheless, political accountability activists continue to press for action against the Bush, and now the Obama, administrations for violations of the Constitution and settled law. On April 19th of this year a California attorney, Inder Comar, filed two lawsuits in the Northern District of California against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz for planning and waging a “war of aggression” against Iraq, in violation of laws set down at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. A radio interview of Comar can be heard on peace activist Cindy Sheehan’s radio show HERE.