How did the NSA surveillance program come to be? Today we speak to the director of the new PBS Frontline series ‘United States of Secrets,’ Michael Kirk. In the interview Kirk tells us how the Bush White House approved the creation of a surveillance program that would prevent future terrorist attacks—despite questionable legality:
"In the hours and the immediate days right after 9/11 everyone in Washington who had anything to do with intelligence or war fighting wanted to get tough, stop this from happening, react to what had happened in Washington and in New York. One of the people who was called for a solution to the problem was the head of the National Security Agency, a three-star Air Force general named Michael Hayden.
So Hayden drives to the Oval Office, the first meeting in his life that he’s in the Oval Office. The president who has been briefed about him, Andrew Card who we talked to and was the Chief of Staff says that he had never heard of Hayden and he’s pretty sure the President hadn’t either but they briefed the President and when Hayden goes into the White House, into the Oval Office, the President puts his arm around him and calls him ‘Mikey,’ his kindergarten nickname and Hayden presents what would eventually be called ‘The Program,’ a very aggressive collection of Internet data and telephone records and he says to the President, ‘But I’m worried about the legality of this,’ and the President looks at him and says, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re going to go forward with this. I’ve got lawyers working on this now and you don’t have to worry about the legality of this; I think can do this on my own authority.’”
NOTE: This interview includes a segment with Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, former NSA analysts.
Photo of President Bush and head of the NSA, Michael Hayden by Doug Mills