WASHINGTON (AP) — Parts of President Bush’s eavesdropping campaign have been labelled illegal by a former top lawyer of his administration, reports the Associated Press.
There were aspects of the Terrorist Surveillance Program “that I could not find the legal support for,” Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But he would not say exactly what law or constitutional principle the surveillance violated. Goldsmith said the White House has forbidden him from saying anything about the legal analysis underpinning the program — key details long sought by majority Democrats and some Republicans.
As the Justice Department’s top legal adviser to the White House from 2003 to 2004, Goldsmith was in charge of writing formal legal opinions and interpretations for the executive branch.
The legal rationale for the program is so secretive it initially was not even shared with top officials, including the general counsel of the National Security Agency, which conducted the surveillance.
Then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey also was not “read into,” or advised about, the TSP program, despite his role in implementing the warrantless surveillance. As deputy, Comey would have been responsible for approving warrantless surveillance requests when the attorney general was not available.
Goldsmith said he assumes that the White House does not want the legality of the TSP program scrutinized, and he said “the extreme secrecy — not getting feedback from experts, not showing it to experts — led to a lot of mistakes.”