Pissed pols wants answers on Bush’s spying

    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.

    On Friday,
    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.”

    Sen. John
    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.”

    “You know,
    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
    of Americans.”