February 6, 2006 3:12 PM PST

Gonzales: NSA may tap 'ordinary' Americans' e-mail

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Support for the program appeared to split down party lines. Several Republicans said they generally supported the administration's efforts and understood the importance of the eavesdropping operations. "I suspect few members of Congress would vote to eliminate this program or cut its funding," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said bluntly that the secret surveillance program is not authorized by a 1978 law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which he called the "exclusive source of authority for wiretapping for intelligence purposes." "Wiretapping that is not authorized under that statute is a federal crime," he said. "That is what the law says, and that is what the law means."

Leahy chided the attorney general for the administration's lack of consultation with Congress on the legality of the program. "Thank heavens we actually have a press that tells us what you all are doing, because you all are certainly not," he said without disguising any hint of disapproval.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said she, too, was concerned that too few members of Congress had been adequately briefed about the program, a phenomenon that gave her reason to believe "this program is much bigger and much broader than you want anyone else to know," she said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, argued that by circumventing FISA, the Bush administration could be jeopardizing national security in the long run. If the wiretapping program is illegal, he said, front-line NSA employees could be prosecuted, and evidence gathered through the process could be tossed, meaning that "some of those toughest, cruelest and meanest members of al-Qaida may be able to use illegality in the court system to escape justice."

But even some Republicans who said they supported the program also admitted they believed it would be more effective and better accepted by the public if Congress explored new legislation to give it a formal legal blessing. "Presidents are always stronger in the condition of foreign affairs when Congress is onboard," said Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican. He broached the idea of amending FISA so that it would exclude the sort of communications the administration said it has been tapping through the NSA program.

The administration will "listen and consider your ideas," Gonzales said.

Specter said he expected to schedule a second day of hearings to allow senators to ask the attorney general additional questions about the situation. Other members of the committee indicated they hoped to bring in additional witnesses, such as former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for questioning.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is planning a hearing of its own later this week with the attorney general and NSA Director Michael Hayden, DeWine said, but that session will be closed to the public.

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10 comments

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Freedom
The question is who's watching the NSA watchers, so I defer to Mr. Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin, 1759.

Or maybe the FISA 15 day surveilence just isnt't enough for administration and it's a time management issues at the cost of the American populace - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=49" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=49</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't defer to Mr. Franklin
What liberty is essential. Freedom to remain alive? Very likely. Freedom to think? Very likely. What else?
The question here is not over liberties being essential but what "liberties" are legally mandated.
Posted by therealCSMR (7 comments )
Link Flag
Re Freedom
"The question is who's watching the NSA watchers, so I defer to Mr. Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin, 1759."

I agree with your in initial statement. However, I believe that this administration has successfully used fear to give many people the idea that eradicating section of the constitution will make us safe from outsiders. What we will get in exchange will be greater danger from within. The constitution is met to protect us from an over-reaching government. Once freedoms are gone, we will not get them back.
Posted by Gpruitt54 (4 comments )
Link Flag
NSA tap
would this help the u.s. now that the whole world knows phone tapping is going on? could the u.s. be mislead by phony information,(deversion)and get blind sided by somthing else? as unprepared and unorganized as we were in 911,i have little faith.
Posted by steve thomas--2008 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
headline is biased to the point of inaccuracy
To have a headline "Gonzales: NSA may..." when what he actually said was "with a high degree of certainty" it does not, is biased to the point of inaccuracy.
Posted by therealCSMR (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A quote from the first president
Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
George Washington

this standard form of oath applies to all government employees
"I (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to
the same; that I take this obligation freely without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully
discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So
help me God."

Oh well, the man is not above and beyond the laws of the land as enacted by congress until such time the laws have been rescinded!, nor does he have the authority to create his own rules and regulations outside that of the houses of congress!

What more can one say!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh well he talks to Rev, Fallwell ("God" given
name) and Fallwell talks only with God; so, I guess maybe he does "honestly" ( a loose use of the word)think he's above the law, on level with God and all that.
Posted by jesdog (66 comments )
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