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Lawmakers knew of surveillance, ex-CIA chief says

An angry Michael V. Hayden insists that top members of Congress were kept informed and supported the post-9/11 program.

July 12, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden angrily struck back Saturday at assertions that the Bush administration's post-9/11 surveillance program was more far-reaching than imagined and was largely concealed from congressional overseers.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Hayden said that top members of Congress were kept well informed all along the way, notwithstanding protests from some that they were kept in the dark.

"One of the points I had in every one of the briefings was to make sure they understood the scope of our activity," said Hayden, who also previously headed the National Security Agency.

"At the political level, this had support," said Hayden, jumping into an escalating controversy that has caused deep political divisions and lingering debate about the Bush administration's counter-terrorism policies.

Hayden was reacting to a report issued Friday by a team of U.S. inspectors general that called the surveillance program after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "unprecedented." The report also questioned the program's legal rationale and the level of secrecy that enshrouded it.

Hayden, who in 2001 designed and carried out the secret program, told AP that he was distressed by suggestions that Congress was not fully informed. He said that he personally briefed top lawmakers on the entire surveillance operation and that he believed that they supported it.

The details of the wider surveillance program described by the federal investigative report remain classified.

The program included the wiretapping of Americans' phone and computer lines and was intended to detect communications from the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

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