From the Hearing

Excerpts of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's testimony on warrantless eavesdropping ordered by President Bush:

"The program is triggered only when a career professional at the NSA has reasonable grounds to believe that one of the parties to a communication is a member or agent of al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization. As the president has said, 'If you're talking with al Qaeda, we want to know what you're saying.' " Gonzales was careful not to assert that the U.S. citizen or resident must be the suspected terrorist agent, and officials have said that is not usually the case. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, mere association with a terrorist is not sufficient to justify electronic surveillance. Before granting a warrant, a FISA judge must find probable cause to believe that the American is an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization.
"A few members of Congress have suggested that they personally did not intend the force resolution to authorize the electronic surveillance of the enemy, al Qaeda. But we are a nation governed by written laws, not the unwritten intentions of individuals. What matters is the plain meaning of the statute passed by Congress and signed by the president." Former senator Thomas A. Daschle has contended that the authorization to use military force against al Qaeda approved by Congress did not give President Bush authority to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without warrants. The South Dakota Democrat, then the Senate majority leader, said the Bush administration asked for language giving the president authority to exercise his war-making powers at home, but the Senate specifically rejected it.
"The bipartisan leadership of both the House and Senate has also been informed. During the course of these briefings, no members of Congress asked that the program be discontinued." Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, was briefed in 2003. He took the unusual step of sending Vice President Cheney a classified letter voicing his concerns about the program and its lack of oversight.

Graphic: The Washington Post

© 2005 The Washington Post Company