Several lawmakers said Sunday they will press President Bush to
justify his decision to allow domestic eavesdropping, rebuffing GOP
suggestions their criticism of broad executive authority puts the
nation at risk.
During the Sunday talk shows, lawmakers were
responding to efforts by White House aide Karl Rove to make national
security the top partisan issue in the November midterm elections. Rove
made the comments about the time that new audiotape warnings by Osama
bin Laden were released, threatening an upcoming attack on the U.S.
think Karl Rove made a big mistake last Friday to use this issue as his
opening salvo to Republican operatives,” said Rep. Jane Harman,
D-Calif., the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
terrorists aren’t going to check our party registration before they
blow us up. …We’re under attack as America,” she said on ABC’s “This
“The NSA’s terrorist surveillance program is targeted at
al-Qaida communications coming into or going out of the United States,”
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement later
Sunday. “It is a limited, hot pursuit effort by our intelligence
community to detect and prevent attacks.”
He accused Democrats of
making “misleading and outlandish charges about this vital tool that
helps us do exactly what the 9/11 Commission said we needed to do
connect the dots.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appearing on “Fox
News Sunday,” said the new threats emphasize a greater need for Bush to
fully consult with lawmakers from both parties on the best strategy for
spy programs within the confines of the law.
“Do I think that the president’s leadership has been worthy of support of our party and our leadership? Yes,” McCain said.
But McCain questioned efforts to paint Democrats as weak on national security.
too many good Democrats over there who are as concerned about national
security and work just as hard as I do,” McCain said.
Rove outlined a blueprint for Republicans to prevail in the midterm
elections, suggesting that Democrats have undermined anti-terror
efforts by questioning Bush’s authority to allow wiretapping without
getting court approval first.
Bush has cited a congressional
resolution passed after Sept. 11, 2001 that authorized him to use force
in the fight against terrorism as allowing him to order the program.
The program allows eavesdropping of international phone calls and
e-mails of people deemed a terror risk.
Several lawmakers from
both parties, including McCain and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman
Arlen Specter, have questioned the program’s legality because Bush did
not get court approval nor fully consult with Congress. Specter’s
committee will hold a hearing Feb. 6.
On Sunday, some Republicans
echoed Rove’s anti-terror themes, arguing that Bush should have broad
power even if the 2001 congressional resolution did not expressly
authorize or otherwise notify lawmakers of the domestic spying.
George Allen, R-Va., who is considered a possible 2008 presidential
contender, said there are many security measures he doesn’t know _ and
shouldn’t know _ because it could risk alerting the enemy.
did I know what sort of intercepts or communications of financial
assistance or other things that I don’t know about,” he said.
cited in particular the new bin Laden tape which surfaced last week as
evidence that the terror cells might exist in the U.S. and might be
preparing to attack should law enforcement officials let their guard
“I find nothing wrong with having a hearing. This maybe
ought to be something that you would ratify _ yes, the president has
this authority,” Allen said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Kerry, D-Mass. said Rove is being divisive by seeking to exploit the
terror threat for political gain. Wartime should not give a president
unchecked authority, he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by
Karl Rove and his crowd,” Kerry said. “We’re prepared to eavesdrop
wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer. But we
need to put a procedure in place to protect the constitutional rights