The legal justification for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was handled with unprecedented secrecy that sidestepped usual Justice Department procedure, the Washington Post reports. Only three Justice officials—John Ashcroft, John Yoo, and staff attorney James Baker—were made aware of the program and participated in drafting memos that established its legality.
Yoo drafted the controversial memos in November 2001, but his superiors didn't learn of them until late 2003. They put “warrantless searches that protect the national security” outside of the purview of FISA, a report by five government inspectors general says. The memos thus dodged a rigorous departmental review process. The Bush administration’s arrangements were “extraordinary and inappropriate,” the report says, and “undermined” the Justice Department's function.
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