DoJ Attorneys in Dark About Surveillance Program:

Today's Washington Post reports:

The Bush White House so strictly controlled access to its warrantless eavesdropping program that only three Justice Department lawyers were aware of the plan, which nearly ignited mass resignations and a constitutional crisis when a wider circle of administration officials began to question its legality, according to a watchdog report released today.

The unclassified summary by five inspectors general from government intelligence agencies called the arrangements "extraordinary and inappropriate" and asserted that White House secrecy "undermined" the ability of the Justice Department to do its work.

We've known for some time that details about the surveillance program were held quite close within the Bush Administration, but I don't think we knew just how close.

Only three Justice Department officials -- Ashcroft, former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John C. Yoo, and intelligence policy lawyer James Baker -- were read into the electronic surveillance initiative. Many of their superiors were kept in the dark, the unclassified summary reported for the first time today.

One former department lawyer, Jay S. Bybee, told investigators that he was Yoo's superior in the Office of Legal Counsel but was never read into the program and "could shed no further light" on how Yoo became the point man on memos that confirmed its legality. By following this route, the memos avoided a rigorous peer review process.

The report said Yoo prepared hypothetical documents in September and early October 2001 before writing a formal memo in November, after Bush had already authorized the initiative. . . .

The full outlines of the program remain murky and subject to strict classification, but the inspectors general report said that Yoo "did not accurately describe the scope" of other intelligence activities in the President's Surveillance Program, presenting "a serious impediment to recertification of the program."