Probe Sought on NSA Surveillance
Monday, December 19, 2005
Democrats and Republicans called separately yesterday for congressional investigations into President Bush's decision after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to allow domestic eavesdropping without court approval.
"The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he intends to hold hearings. "They talk about constitutional authority," Specter said. "There are limits as to what the president can do."
Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) also called for an investigation, and House Democratic leaders asked Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to create a bipartisan panel to do the same.
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 last week. Bush and other administration officials initially refused to discuss the surveillance or their legal authority, citing security concerns.
"It's been briefed to the Congress over a dozen times, and, in fact, it is a program that is, by every effort we've been able to make, consistent with the statutes and with the law," Vice President Cheney said yesterday in an interview with ABC News "Nightline" to be broadcast tonight. "It's the kind of capability if we'd had before 9/11 might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11."
Bush and other administration officials have said congressional leaders have been briefed regularly on the program. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said there were no objections raised by lawmakers told about it.
"That's a legitimate part of the equation," McCain said on ABC's "This Week." But he said Bush still needs to explain why he chose to ignore the law that requires approval of a special court for domestic wiretaps.
Reid acknowledged he had been briefed on the four-year-old domestic spy program "a couple months ago" but insisted the administration bears full responsibility. Reid became Democratic leader in January.
"The president can't pass the buck on this one. This is his program," Reid said on "Fox News Sunday." "He's commander in chief. But commander in chief does not trump the Bill of Rights."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Saturday that she had been told on several occasions about unspecified activities by the NSA. Pelosi said she expressed strong concerns at the time.