What the NSA Does and Doesn't Do

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this phone is tapped sticker

They’re listening… [williac / Flickr]

It’s only taken a month following James Risen and Eric Lichtblau’s NYT story about domestic spying for the first official challenges to the Bush Administration’s NSA policy. They came yesterday, in the form of two lawsuits: one headed by the ACLU and one by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Both suits take the same line of legal attack: that the NSA’s domestic surveillance has a chilling effect on the communication of all kinds of people who have frequent dealings — e-mails, phone conversations — with people in countries that might be of… special interest. The plaintiffs are a motley group, made up of constitutional scholars and a British-born provocateur, GITMO detainee defense attorneys and Larry Diamond, an academic who advised the Bush Administration on the democratization of Iraq. And also Greenpeace.

One of the plaintiffs in particular probably knows at least as much about the NSA as the NSA knows about him: James Bamford was the first journalist to write in depth about the NSA, starting in 1982 with The Puzzle Palace when most people hadn’t even heard of it. (“No Such Agency” is, after all, its long-time only half-jokey name.) That first book was written in the wake of the NSA’s first domestic spying flap — the scandal that led to FISA n the first place. In the years since, Bamford has written extensively about the NSA and maintained relationships to current and former agents.

So, in our first show about the larger issue of Presidential Power, a look at a not-so-secret secret agency: at its mandate, its history, and what it’s doing now.

James Bamford

Author, The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets

Patrick Radden Keefe

Author, Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping

Laurence Tribe

Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School

Author, On Reading the Constitution among many other books and articles

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