Bush approved eavesdropping - official
Updated: 2005-12-17 14:27
US President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program
in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior
intelligence official said Friday night.
The disclosure follows angry demands by
lawmakers earlier in the day for congressional inquiries into whether the
monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil
US President Bush
speaks to reporters during his meeting with the Iraqi Ambassador to the
United Nations, Samir Shakir al-Sumaydi in the Oval Office of the White
House, Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 in Washington.
"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," declared Republican Sen.
Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year.
Bush on Friday refused to discuss whether he had authorized such domestic
spying without obtaining warrants from a court, saying that to comment would tie
his hands in fighting terrorists.
In a broad defense of the program put forward hours later, however, a senior
intelligence official told The Associated Press that the eavesdropping was
narrowly designed to go after possible terrorist threats in the United States.
The official said that, since October 2001, the program has been renewed more
than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney
general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then
signed the authorizations.
During the reviews, government officials have also provided a fresh
assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to
the country or government, the official said.
"Only if those conditions apply do we even begin to think about this," he
said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified
nature of the intelligence operation.
"The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources ！ let me
underscore this now ！ consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend
the United States and its citizens," the official said, adding that
congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.
Senior administration officials asserted the president would do everything in
his power to protect the American people while safeguarding civil liberties.
"I will make this point," Bush said in an interview with "The NewsHour With
Jim Lehrer." "That whatever I do to protect the American people ！ and I have an
obligation to do so ！ that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made
understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the
The surveillance, disclosed in Friday's New York Times, is said to allow the
agency to monitor international calls and e-mail messages of people inside the
United States. But the paper said the agency would still seek warrants to snoop
on purely domestic communications ！ for example, Americans' calls between New
York and California.