Reid Calls for Probe of Domestic Spying by Bush administration

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 18, 2005; 10:45 AM

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called Sunday for congressional hearings and investigations into President Bush's authorization of domestic spying as part of the war on terror.

"This Congress has done very little oversight," Reid, D-Nev., said on "Fox News Sunday." "There should be an investigation and hearings."

Reid acknowledged that he was briefed by the administration about the surveillance program "a couple of months ago." But he said the program apparently has been going on for four years and "there's no way the president can pass the buck."

Bush acknowledged Saturday that since October 2001 he has authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails of people within the United States without seeking warrants from courts.

The New York Times disclosed the existence of the program in a story last week. Bush and other administration officials initially refused to discuss the surveillance.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that public disclosure of surveillance programs used to wage the war on terror damages those efforts.

Rice, who was Bush's national security adviser when the program began, acknowledged that she was aware of it.

In appearances on news shows, she echoed Bush's defense of domestic spying, calling it necessary and within his legal authority, as well as his criticism of reports disclosing it.

"It is really a serious matter when we get the disclosure of a program like this because, after all, what we must do is protect, from those trying to hurt us, knowledge of how we follow them, how we follow their activities," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday."

Reid said whoever disclosed the existence of the surveillance program should be prosecuted, but he said the president should not have unchecked authority to disregard the Constitution.

Rice said that listening to terror leader Osama bin Laden's telephone conversations had been successful until news reports disclosed it and bin Laden stopped using the phone.

"The more that we get the exposure of these very sensitive programs, the more it undermines our ability to follow terrorists, to know about their activities," she said.

Rice could not cite the constitutional and other authority she contended allowed Bush to authorize the domestic spying. However, she said the program had been reviewed by administration lawyers and that congressional leaders had been briefed.

"This is a war where intelligence is the long pole in the tent," Rice said on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

Reid calls for congressional probe of domestic spying by Bush administration

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