Thursday’s USA Today reported that Bush’s domestic spying program has collected the call records of tens of millions of Americans through the cooperation of the phone companies. Bush defended the program, naturally, as a necessary effort that expressly targets “al-Qaeda and their known affiliates.”
REACTION (also from USA Today)
From the White House:
The White House defended its overall eavesdropping program and said no domestic surveillance is conducted without court approval.
”The intelligence activities undertaken by the United States government are lawful, necessary and required to protect Americans from terrorist attacks,” said Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, who added that appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on intelligence activities.
From Capitol Hill:
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel ”to find out exactly what is going on.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the panel, sounded incredulous about the latest report and railed against what he called a lack of congressional oversight. He argued that the media was doing the job of Congress.
”Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaeda?” Leahy asked. ”These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything … Where does it stop?”
The Democrat, who at one point held up a copy of the newspaper, added: ”Shame on us for being so far behind and being so willing to rubber stamp anything this administration does. We ought to fold our tents.”
The report came as the former NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden – Bush’s choice to take over leadership of the CIA – had been scheduled to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday. However, the meetings with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were postponed at the request of the White House, said congressional aides in the two Senate offices.
Source: The Associated Press