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Former Bush Administration Official Defends Warrantless Wiretaps

A former Bush administration lawyer has defended a controversial warrantless wiretapping program approved by then-President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, John Yoo said the best way to find an al-Qaida operative is to look at all e-mail, text and phone traffic between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the United States.

He said such action might involve the filtering of innocent traffic, just as roadblocks and airport screenings do.

Yoo, who worked in the Justice Department and wrote a series of memos in support of the program, refused to be interviewed by five inspectors general who released a report last week on the secret program.

In the report, the investigators suggested that Mr. Bush may have violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The report concluded information gathered by the program played a limited role in the FBI's overall counterterrorism efforts.

It said very few CIA analysts knew about the program and could not fully use it in their counterterrorism work. It also questioned the legal advice used by Mr. Bush to set up the program.

The five inspectors general are with agencies with intelligence responsibilities - the Defense and Justice Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Yoo said the inspectors general were responding to what he described as the "media-stoked politics of recrimination" and not consulting the long history of American presidents who "lived up to their duty in times of crisis."

Yoo said it is "absurd" to think that a law such as FISA should restrict military operations against potential attacks on the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AP