(Former NSA Director Bobby Inman speaking at George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)
Michael Hayden’s CIA Director confirmation hearings start today in the Senate Intelligence Committee at 9:30 a.m.
I’ll be listening.
I will be having a half hour discussion about the Hayden hearings and the NSA eavesdropping controversy on New York Public Radio, WNYC on the “Brian Lehrer Show” with Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post, Kevin Whitelaw of US News & World Report, and Holly Baily of Newsweek at 11:30 a.m.
On other fronts, I spent much of the day yesterday at a conference exploring the rise and fall of liberal internationalism in American foreign policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.
It was one of the more substance-packed meetings I have been to in some time and included such personalities as Princeton University Professor and After Victory author G. John Ikenberry, Woodrow Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter, Georgetown Professor and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Charles Kupchan, author and political provocateur Kevin Phillips, UT Austin LBJ School and former Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg, UT Austin Professor Peter Trubowitz, Princeton Professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, blogger and professor on the way to Tufts Daniel Drezner, Princeton European Program Director Andrew Moravcsik, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Walter Russell Mead, New Republic Editor-at-Large and author of the forthcoming The Good Fight Peter Beinart, and many other interesting people.
But one other who was there was former National Security Agency Director Bobby Ray Inman.
Here is where it gets complicated. Inman told many of us a number of interesting things which I am going to treat off the record.
However, he said one very provocative thing about the CIA Valerie Plame outing investigation that I have confirmed that he has stated at other venues, publicly. I don’t feel that Admiral Inman was guarded about his comments — nor did he ask anyone he was speaking to to treat his comments with discretion.
So, I am only reporting this because he said it elsewhere.
But before I get into that, Inman also had some interesting things to say about the NSA domestic spying program at a recent New York Public Library program, the transcript of which is here.
A short report on Inman’s comments:
Ex-NSA Head Bobby Ray Inman on the National Security Agency’s Domestic Surveillance Program: “This Activity Was Not Authorized”
Admiral Bobby Ray Inman has become the highest-ranking former NSA official to speak out about the domestic spy program. “There clearly was a line in the FISA statutes which says you couldn’t do this,” said Inman last week in remarks that have received little attention.
On Thursday the Senate Intelligence Committee will open its confirmation hearing for General Michael Hayden to become the next director of the CIA. Hayden is the former head of the National Security Agency who authorized the agency in 2001 to begin monitoring the phone calls of U.S. citizens without legally required court warrants.
While Hayden and the Bush administration have defended the secret domestic surveillance program, it is now being criticized by an unlikely source — a former director of the NSA. Last week Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who headed the NSA from 1977 to 1981, spoke in New York at a forum sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Century Foundation. It was part of the library’s Live at the NYPL series.
Besides an article at the website Wired News, Inman’s statements have received almost no media attention even though he is believed to the highest ranking former NSA official to speak out about the program. At the forum he disputed the Bush administration’s claim that Congress authorized the secret spy program when it authorized the president to use force following the Sept. 11 attacks. Inman also said the program clearly contradicts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which Congress passed in 1978 — at the time he was head of the National Security Agency.
I think that Admiral Inman’s insights into the NSA eavesdropping program are important — and given his self-admitted penchant for candor, I think that many of his comments on other fronts are fascinating, insightful and informed by his considerable analytical abilities and high quality relationships in America’s national security bureaucracy.
But like any of us, he could be wrong.
What Inman shared with some of us — and this was a repeated assertion from comments that I have confirmed that he made in Austin — is that the person in Patrick Fitzgerald’s bull’s eye is Richard Armitage.
I have written about Armitage many times in the past and hope that this rumor is incorrect.
But I do believe that Armitage was possibly a key source for Dana Priest and Mike Allen early in the Plame outing story and wrote such in November 2005. I don’t have more information on whether Armitage was Novak’s source or not — and what legal consequences there might be, if any, if that was the case. I always assumed that Armitage was cooperating closely with Fitzgerald and would not be in any legal jeopardy.
After all, Armitage was recently knighted and a new oil firm board member.
But Inman stating this matters.
For those who attended the Princeton meetings who will no doubt read this and who may be surprised by my reporting Inman’s comments — do understand that I have been able to confirm that Admiral Inman made the same comments in other venues.
Inman stating that Richard Armitage is the target of indictment is news and could have some veracity because of who Inman is.
— Steve Clemons
Update: Here is an interesting related post by Dan Drezner who also attended the Princeton meeting which Inman attended.