Investigations? We can’t do no stinkin’ investigations


    It seems no one expected to investigate spying on Americans by the National Security Agency or the Pentagon feels it has the power to do so.

    First, the Justice Department’s independent watchdog says it does not have
    jurisdiction to open an investigation into the legality of the Bush
    administration’s domestic eavesdropping program.

    Also on Tuesday,
    the Pentagon referred a Democratic request for an internal review on
    the subject to the National Security Agency’s inspector general.

    In
    a three-paragraph letter, Justice’s Inspector General Glenn Fine
    forwarded the request to the department’s Office of Professional
    Responsibility, which reviews allegations of misconduct involving
    employees’ actions when providing legal advice.

    President Bush’s
    decision to authorize the NSA to monitor _ without warrants _ people
    inside the United States has sparked a flurry of questions about the
    program’s legal justification.

    Bush and his top aides say the
    activities of the nation’s largest spy agency were narrowly targeted to
    intercept calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the United
    States with suspected ties to al-Qaida.

    But a growing chorus of
    legal experts from both parties are raising doubts about Bush’s
    authority to order such monitoring on U.S. soil and questioning whether
    the White House should have sought changes in law.

    Congress also
    plans to investigate. As part of its work, the House and Senate
    intelligence committees will soon hear from former NSA officer Russell
    T. Tice. The whistleblower told lawmakers in Dec. 16 letter that he had
    information about “probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts”
    involving the NSA director, the defense secretary and other officials
    as part of highly classified government operations.

    ABC News
    reported Tuesday night that Tice claims to be one of the dozen sources
    who spoke to The New York Times about monitoring programs. The
    newspaper declined to comment, spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said.

    Over
    three dozen House Democrats _ led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a
    member of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees _ have also
    requested separate investigations by Justice’s inspector general, the
    Pentagon’s inspector general and Congress’ watchdogs at the Government
    Accountability Office.

    A senior Defense Department official, who
    spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not yet
    public, said the Pentagon’s watchdog will not do a review because the
    NSA’s inspector general is “actively reviewing aspects of that program.”

    Lofgren said she thought the Pentagon’s watchdog was best suited for the work.

    She
    and a number of her colleagues also wrote to Fine on Monday, saying his
    decision not to open an inquiry was wrong. Under the Patriot Act, the
    Democrats said, his office is designated as the “one entity responsible
    for the review of information and complaints regarding civil rights and
    civil liberties violations” by Justice officials.

    Deputy
    Inspector General Paul Martin said neither the Patriot Act nor the law
    that governs all inspectors general gives Fine jurisdiction to look
    into the attorney general’s actions concerning the electronic
    surveillance program. Issues dealing with that legal authority are
    “jurisdiction of the department’s Office of Professional
    Responsibility,” Martin said.