Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Democrats say they never approved NSA domestic spying program

Paper Chase reports:

Top Senate Democrats have said that they never approved or were fully briefed on the National Security Agency's post-September 11th domestic surveillance program [JURIST report]. President Bush has vigorously defended the program, which monitors international communications of people in the US with known links to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, and in a press conference [transcript] Monday, Bush said that "Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program." In a handwritten letter [PDF text] to Vice President Cheney following a Senate Intelligence Committee [official website] briefing in July 2003, vice chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wrote that he felt "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities." Rockefeller wrote that the briefing "exacerbat[ed] my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance." Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who also sat on the Intelligence Committee, has said he didn't recall briefings on program spying on US residents. Both former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and his successor, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), have both said they had been briefed on the NSA program, but that key details about the program's scope were not shared.

I'm just a lowly law librarian, but this doesn't sound right to me. If, as has been alleged, the President broke the law by authorizing wiretaps of US persons without following FISA procedures, would the alleged fact that some members of the Democratic leadership were "briefed" make it legal? Don't they have to, like, pass a law or something?

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