Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine (right) confers with a colleague during a 2003 hearing.
The Justice Department will, at long last, examine the NSA’s domestic spying program, through which agents have eavesdropped on countless phone calls and e-mails. Unfortunately, the review will not explore the legality of the program and was described by one Democrat as an attempt at appeasement.
International Herald Tribune:
The inquiry by Glenn A. Fine, the department’s inspector general, will focus on the role of Justice prosecutors and agents in carrying out the warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency.
Fine’s investigation is not expected to address whether the controversial program is an unconstitutional expansion of presidential power, as its critics and a federal judge in Detroit have charged.
“After conducting initial inquiries into the program, we have decided to open a program review that will examine the department’s controls and use of information related to the program,” Fine wrote in a letter dated Monday to House and Senate leaders on judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees.
The review also will look at “the department’s compliance with legal requirements governing the program,” according to the four-paragraph letter obtained by the Associated Press.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the agency welcomes the review: “We expect that this review will assist Justice Department personnel in ensuring that the department’s activities comply with the legal requirements that govern the operation of the program.”
In January, Fine’s office said it did not have jurisdiction to investigate, as requested by more than three dozen Democrats, the legality of the secret program that monitors phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and abroad when a link to terrorism is suspected.
Fine’s letter outlining his review was welcomed by congressional Democrats. At the same time, they said it falls short of examining issues at the heart of the debate—how the spying program evolved and whether its creation violated any laws.
“A full investigation into the program as a whole, not just the DOJ’s involvement, will be necessary,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.