Salon profiles James Bamford, a former Navy intelligence analyst and author of the first, and definitive book about the NSA from the inside out: The Puzzle Palace. Bamford is to the agency what Bob Woodward is to the presidency: a confidant, a chronicler and even perhaps a promoter at times. But Bamford is flat-out opposed to Bush’s executive order. And Salon’s Michael Scherer characterizes his unequivocal views:
Bamford believes the president clearly broke the law, and he has called for a special prosecutor to investigate. “What you have here is the administration going around the only protection the public has from the NSA, and doing it on their own. That’s how Richard Nixon got in trouble, and one of the reasons he left office.”
For Bamford, there is only black and white when it comes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that specifically requires warrants for any NSA wiretapping of U.S. citizens. “If you want to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens, you go to court. If you don’t, you go to jail,” Bamford says. “If you want to change the law, you go to Congress.”
Bamford also quotes this telling, chilling and clairvoyant passage from Senator Frank Church, chief advocate of the 1978 FISA law:
“That [NSA] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversation, telegrams, it doesn’t matter,” Church declared then. “There would be no place to hide.”
Salon’s coverage of this story is second only to the New York Times, which broke the initial story.