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Admiral Inman Lashed Out at Bush Over Domestic Wiretaps
Defense Tech.org
May 9, 2006

Former NSA director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman lashed out at the Bush administration Monday night over its continued use of warrantless domestic wiretaps – and called for the CIA to be broken up in two. It's one of the first times a former high-ranking intelligence official has criticized the program in public, analysts say.

"This activity is not authorized," Inman said, as part of a panel discussion on eavesdropping, sponsored by the New York Public Library. The Bush administration "need[s] to get away from the idea that they can continue doing it."

Since the NSA eavesdropping program was unveiled in December, Inman – like other senior members of the intelligence community – has been measured in the public statements he's made about the agency he headed under President Jimmy Carter. He maintained that his former analysts "only act in accordance with law." When asked whether the president had the legal authority to order the wiretaps, Inman replied, "someone else would have to give you the good answer."

But sitting in a brightly-lit, basement auditorium at the Library, next to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the surveillance story, Inman's tone changed. He called on the President to "walk into the modern world" and change the law governing the wiretaps – or abandon the program altogether.

"The program has drawn a lot of criticism, but thus far former military and intelligence officials have not spoken up. To have Admiral Inman – the former head of the NSA -- come forward with this critique is significant," said Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, who sat on the panel with Inman and Risen. "Because of the secrecy surrounding this type of activity, much of the criticism has come from outsiders who don't have a firm grasp of the mechanics and the utility of electronic intelligence. Inman knows whereof he speaks."

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