POLITICS
05/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Which Congressman Did NSA Try To Wiretap Without A Warrant?

The National Security Agency sought to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, the New York Times reported Thursday. The paper couldn't determine, however, which member came in for the enhanced attention.

It offered scant clues, but did say that the representative participated in a Congressional delegation -- a "codel" -- to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006. From the NYT report:

The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact -- as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 -- with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman's conversations, the official said.

The use of the label "congressman" narrows it down slightly. (You're off the hook, Lynn Woolsey!) Spencer Ackerman has started to put a list together, but the way that the House of Representatives discloses congressional trips doesn't make it easy.

[UPDATE: The preliminary results of HuffPost readers' research.]

The office of the Secretary of the Senate is culling through its own records to come up with a list of senators who would match the description, but we need help on the House side. If you have time today, there are a few ways to help. Googling for news reports of codels, as Ackerman did, is one way and will enable a fairly comprehensive list to be compiled. The tougher task is sifting through the House Clerk's public disclosure of foreign trips. We'll divvy out portions of that task depending on how many citizen journalists volunteer. (And, of course, if you're an NSA staffer with a whistle to blow, we're all ears.)

Send what you find to submissions+nsa@huffingtonpost.com or write me at ryan@huffintonpost.com if you're willing to do some serious digging.

The NSA ultimately decided not to wiretap the member of Congress because, you know, it's illegal. "The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the NSA, without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress," notes the Times.

Ackerman, so far, has found the following men in Congress to have gone on codels in 2005 and 2006. We'll continuously update the list and will be calling members of Congress to see what leads they may have.

UPDATE: A reader notes that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) traveled to Syria and Lebanon in 2006 and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which outraged the Bush administration.

Another reader suggests Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia who lost a reelection bid in 2006, as a possible target. Certainly, her proximity to Palestinian activists would have given the NSA reason to believe she had "contact...with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties." After all, the U.S. government considers the Palestinians' elected leadership, Hamas, to be a terrorist organization. McKinney ran on the Green Party ticket for president in 2008.

Reader Maggie Masar, relying on news reports, notes that then-Sen. Barack Obama went on a codel in 2006, led by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). Of course, thanks to the presidential campaign, we know all about Obama's relationship with "an extremist who had possible terrorist ties."

Jack Dinker writes in suggesting that Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a fierce critic of the war and the Bush administration, is a likely suspect. Kucinich traveled widely in the region and met with people the administration probably didn't like. Dinker highlights this passage from a Kucinich statement: "Congressman Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth, visited Lebanon last summer in the wake of Israel's bombing of South Lebanon. Their mission included traveling around the war-torn country where they met with government leaders and citizens in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Palestine in the hopes of generating support for peace."

House members
Darrell Issa (R- Calif.)
George Miller (D-Calif.)
Edward Markey (D-Mass.)
Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)
James McGovern (D- Mass.)
David Dreier (R-Calif.)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)
Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)
Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)
Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.)
E. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.)
Jon Porter (R-Nev)
Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.)
Dave Weldon (R-Fla.)
Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.)
Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.)

Reader additions:
Chris Shays (R-Conn.), who lost his seat in 2008
Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
Jack Murtha (D-Penn.)
John McHugh (NY)
John Carter (TX)
Mike Conaway (TX)
Todd Russell Platts (R-Penn.)
Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.)
Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.)
Steve Buyer (R-Ind.)
John Salazar (D-Colo.)
John Boozman (R-Ark.)
Mike Pence (R-Ind.)
Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)
Tom Cole (R-Va.)
Chris Bell (D-TX)
Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Mark Green (R-WI)
Peter King (R-NY)
Todd Tiahrt - (KS - R)
Silvestre Reyes (TX - D)
John Tierney (MA - D)
Michael Rogers (MI - R)
Thomas Lantos (D-Calif.), who passed away in February 2008
Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Edward Royce (R-CA)
Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) and Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) traveled to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2005, according to congressional records sifted through by Tiffany Hindman, who also found the 11 members listed above them using the same cumbersome research method. They traveled to Turkey and Jordan in 2005.

Senate members
John Thune (R-S.D.)
John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

Reader additions:
Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
George Allen (R-Va.), who lost in 2006 to Jim Webb
Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) went to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2005

UPDATE: A number have readers have speculated that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the lone Muslim in Congress, is the most likely to have been the NSA target. He didn't enter Congress, however, until 2007. However, one reader notes that he "went with a fact-finding cong. delegation to the Middle East (Qatar & a number of other countries) in April 2007. He was first elected in 2006, so he wasn't available for any 05-06 trips, but still -- he is the first Muslim member of Congress, & I can't imagine a more likely target for some right-wing hack at the NSA."

Also, since the Times reported that it couldn't identify who the politician was, it's a little unclear how they were able to narrow the term down to "congressman" -- unless they were using it broadly to refer to both men and women. If that's the case, the following women traveled to the Middle East in 2005 and 2006.

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam)
Melissa Hart (R-Penn.)
Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)
Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Marcia Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
Jane Harman (D-Calif.)

UPDATE II: Pelosi wants answers, as well. "These are disturbing allegations that deserve and are receiving the fullest attention of the appropriate committees of Congress. Congress expects to receive reports from the Inspectors General of key agencies regarding warrantless wiretapping activities, including those conducted under President Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program. Should these reports or any further investigations by Congress prove these allegations true, those who directed these activities in the Bush Administration must be held accountable," she said in a statement.

Exacting any punishment, however, will be difficult, as Congress has previously granted the Bush administration immunity for such violations.

UPDATE III: For folks who want to go beyond news reports, the Secretary of the Senate advises that foreign travel can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.

Click on Congressional Record to search. The 2005 through 2006 reports can be found in the 109th and 110th Congress. The best keyword search to use is "foreign travel financial." The reports are buried deep in the congressional record.

2005 Reports
1st Qtr. (May 16, 2005) pages S5237- S5246
2nd Qtr. (July 29, 2005) pages S9548-S9557
3rd Qtr. (Nov. 7, 2005) pages S12454-S12460
4th Qtr. (Feb. 9, 2006) pages S1038-S1043
2006 Reports
1st Qtr. (May 5, 2006) pages S4108-S4117
2nd Qtr. (Aug. 3, 2006) pages S8870-S8877
3rd Qtr. (Jan. 4, 2007) pages S190-S198
4th Qtr. (Feb. 7, 2007) pages S1718-S1726

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