Thursday, January 05, 2006

FISA Court and House Committee Question Bush Wiretaps Without Warrants

Some in the U.S. government are not buying George Bush’s claims that “L’Etat, c’est moi” and are looking to hold him accountable. The Washington Post reports that members of the FISA Court are seeking answers:

The members of a secret federal court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases are scheduled to receive a classified briefing Monday from top Justice Department and intelligence officials about a controversial warrantless-eavesdropping program, according to sources familiar with the arrangements.

Several judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said they want to hear directly from administration officials why President Bush believed he had the authority to order, without the court’s permission, wiretapping of some phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Of serious concern to several judges is whether any information gleaned from intercepts by the National Security Agency was later used to gain their permission for wiretaps without the source being disclosed.

We’ve previously reported on how George Bush was the first President to have requests for wiretaps denied by the conservative appointees to this court and about the resignation in protest by one judge.

Another member of Congress also raised questions:

Yesterday, Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, sent a letter to Bush charging that the limited nature of congressional briefings on the monitoring program violated the National Security Act. The White House informed the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees and the two ranking Democrats about the program.

The National Security Act requires the president to keep all members of the two committees fully informed of intelligence activities with the exception of those conducted covertly overseas. “In my view, failure to provide briefings to the full congressional intelligence committees is a continuing violation of the National Security Act,” Harman wrote.


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