“If you want to know who’s sleeping with whom, who drinks too much or has a fondness for nose candy, this is the place to find it,” says another White House aide. “Karl (Rove) operates under the rule that if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you over.”
Rove started the list while Bush served as governor of Texas, compiling information on various political enemies in the state and leaking damaging information on opponents to friends in the press. The list grew during Bush’s first run for President in 2000 but the names multiplied rapidly after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and passage of the USA Patriot Act. Using the powers under the act, Rove expanded the list to more than 10,000 names, utilizing the FBI’s “national security letters” to gather private and intimate details on American citizens.
National security letters, which can be issued by an FBI supervisor without a judge’s review or approval, allows the bureau to examine the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of any Americans.
The FBI issues some 30,000 national security letters a year to employers, credit bureaus, banks, travel agencies and other sources of information on American citizens. The Patriot Act also forbids anyone receiving such a letter to reveal they have passed on information to the federal government.
“Those letters helped us build files quickly on those we needed to know more about,” says a former White House aide.
The database of political enemies of the Bush administration is not maintained on White House computers and is located on a privately-owned computer offsite, but can be accessed remotely by a select list of senior aides, including Rove. The offsite location allowed the database to escape detection by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald during his investigation of the Valerie Plame leak. The database is funded by private donations from Bush political backers and does not appear on the White House budget or Federal Election Commission campaign reports.
Bush is not the first President to use the FBI to keep track of his enemies. Richard M. Nixon used FBI files to try and discredit his opponents, including Daniel Ellsberg, the Department of Defense employee who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. Bill Clinton used the FBI to compile dossiers on critics like Conservative Congressman Bob Barr and legal gadfly Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch.
But worried White House insiders say the intelligence gathered by the Bush administration is far larger, more extensive and potentially more damaging than the excesses of previous occupants of the White House. Even worse, it dovetails into a pattern of spying on Americans that has become commonplace since Bush took office.
“We’re talking about Big Brother at its most extreme,” says one White House staffer. “We know things about people that their spouses don’t know and, if it becomes politically expedient, we will make sure the rest of the world knows.”
I think it’s high time that Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed some of these guys to find out where that off-site private computer database funded by Bush donors is, don’t you?
White House keeps dossiers on more than 10,000 ‘political enemies’