Skip to comments.Democrats Say They Didn't Back Wiretapping
Posted on 12/20/2005 6:30:32 AM PST by The_Victor
WASHINGTON - Some Democrats say they never approved a domestic wiretapping program, undermining suggestions byand his senior advisers that the plan was fully vetted in a series of congressional briefings.
"I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities," West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, said in a handwritten letter to Vice PresidentDick Cheney in July 2003. "As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney."
Rockefeller is among a small group of congressional leaders who have received briefings on the administration's four-year-old program to eavesdrop without warrants on international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the United States with suspected ties to al-Qaida.
The government still would seek court approval to snoop on purely domestic communications, such as calls between New York and Los Angeles.
Some legal experts described the program as groundbreaking. And until the highly classified program was disclosed last week, those in Congress with concerns about the National Security Agency spying on Americans raised them only privately.
Bush, accused of acting above the law, on Monday issued a forceful defense of the program he first authorized shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His senior aides have stressed the program was narrowly targeted at individuals with a suspected link to al-Qaida or affiliated extremist groups. And Bush said it was "a shameful act" for someone to have leaked details to the media.
He bristled at the suggestion at a White House news conference that he was assuming unlimited powers.
"To say 'unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject," he said angrily. "I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."
Despite the defense, there was a growing storm of criticism in Congress and calls for investigations, from Democrats and Republicans alike. Until the past several days, the White House had only informed Congress' top political and intelligence committee leadership about the program that Bush has reauthorized more than three dozen times.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he and other top aides were just now educating the American people and Congress. "The president has not authorized ... blanket surveillance of communications here in the United States," he said.
The spying uproar was the latest controversy about Bush's handling of the war on terror. It follows allegations of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and of torture and other mistreatment of detainees, and an American death toll inIraq that has exceeded 2,150.
The eavesdropping program was operated out of the NSA, the nation's largest and perhaps most secretive spy operation. Employees there appreciate their nicknames: No Such Agency or Never Say Anything.
Decisions on what conversations to monitor are made at the Fort Meade, Md., headquarters, approved by an NSA shift supervisor and carefully recorded, said Gen. Michael Hayden, the principal deputy director of intelligence.
"The reason I emphasize that this is done at the operational level is to remove any question in your mind that this is in any way politically influenced," said Hayden, who was NSA director when the program began.
Since the program was disclosed last week by The New York Times, current and former Congress members have been liberated to weigh in.
Former Sen. Bob Graham (news, bio, voting record), D-Fla., who was part of the Intelligence Committee's leadership after the 9/11 attacks, recalled a briefing about changes in international electronic surveillance, but does not remember being told of a program snooping on individuals in the United States.
"It seemed fairly mechanical," Graham said. "It was not a major shift in policy."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., received several briefings and raised concerns, including in a classified letter, her spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.
Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said he, too, was briefed by the White House between 2002 and 2004 but was not told key details about the scope of the program.
Daschle's successor, Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., said he received a single briefing earlier this year and that important details were withheld. "We need to investigate this program and the president's legal authority to carry it out," Reid said.
Republicans, too, were skeptical.
Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has promised hearings next year and said he would ask Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, his views of the president's authority for spying without a warrant.
Bush said the electronic eavesdropping program lets the government move faster than the standard practice of seeking a court-authorized warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent," the president said.
And he was cool toward investigations. "An open debate would say to the enemy, `Here is what we're going to do.' And this is an enemy which adjusts," he said.
"..War is for protecting your life, not your civil liberties.."
liberals say we don't have wars, we do police action
Jay Rockefeller is John D. Rockefeller, IV. His father, John D. Rockefeller, III, was born in 1906.
I just play one on TV....
No..no..they attacked the war, which is not stupid. Attacking Bush for wire-tapping suspected Al Qaeda or "torturing" Al Qaeda is not the same thing. It's a loser.
All we are saying, is give cancer a chance.
I just play one on TV.
I think you give them too much credit. They didn't oppose it because they didn't understand it. In fact, they still don't understand it. But they do understand politics and they think this is a political opportunity and they're going to run with it until the story dies out. I'm amazed by how often the Dems are now using incompetence as a defense.
The Rockefeller memo...
Also it is too restrictive. When the FBI wanted to search the computer of Moussari (one of the 9/11/ plotters) the FISA request was turned down as not meeting the standard of probably cause. THIS WAS BEFORE THE 9/11 ATTACK. FISA rules may be the cause of the success of the 9/11 attack.
Indeed. The President called their bluff about not knowing about it. The letters that Pelosi and Rockefeller wrote were written with the idea of giving them cover when the activities were revealed at some future time, which is now. But at least they can't say they didn't know about it.
It sure didn't stop you from going to the Middle East to warn that Iraq would be attacked, did it, you traitorous butthead!
So how would one verify when it was REALLY written??
He could have walked it to the VP's office if he wanted to.
Please note that July 2003 is when Joe Wilson wrote his article, Novak shoved it to Joe and Valerie in HIS article. (Berger first burgled in June 2003).
Well, considering the 2000 election aftermath, the democRAT voters claimed they weren't bright enough to figure out the FL ballot, the coupling of the democRAT politicians and their voters seems like a perfect match. I guess the democRATs are actively seeking to capture the stupid vote.
The only thing Rockefeller and fellow WV Senator nit-wit understand is spending other peoples money. They are VERY good at that.
Someone explain to me something. Did the president not say that this is reviewed every 45 days and that on 12 different occasions he gave info to Congress. If they had problems they had ample time to address this. WHat am I missing here. These people are truly incompetent. THey are relying solely on the "people" being stupid. Argh.
I would like to know what, if there is any, difference there is between these acts and the program Echelon.
Echelon has been in effect since at least 1998 and is designed to intercept calls between the US and other countries.
Isn't that what is being talked about by the dims??
Thats more accurate.