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Democrat: White House chief of staff nixed NSA wiretap briefing

Published: February 22, 2006

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Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, alleged in a statement today that the White House recently cancelled scheduled briefings to the full Intelligence Committee on the details of President Bush's warrantless wiretap program.

Her statement, copied to RAW STORY, follows.


"For two months, Intelligence Committee Democrats have been pressing to have all members of the Intelligence Committees fully briefed on the operational details of the President's NSA program.


"We had hoped that the White House would authorize a briefing on December 18, 2005, the day after it was publicly confirmed by the President. General Hayden said he was prepared to brief the full committee, but our request was disapproved by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.

"The Administration has signaled that it is now shifting course. A senior White House official told me this weekend that it is important to put the program on solid legal footing and improve Congressional oversight. This is welcome news, but it is not a substitute for fully briefing the Committees on the operations of the program and FISA requirements.

"What's worrisome is that the White House remains focused on two political objectives - first, to allow Republicans in tight Congressional races, such as Rep. Heather Wilson, to claim credit for 'progress'; and second, to allow Republican Chairman Pat Roberts to block a bipartisan vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee on a full investigation of the program.

"These political agendas are not surprising, given Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove's vow to make the NSA program a partisan wedge issue in the 2006 election.

"We need the capability to intercept communications of Al Qaeda and affiliates, but as Justice O'Connor wrote in the Hamdi decision, '[A] state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens.'

"In addition to a full briefing on the operational details for the full Committee, we must hold a classified hearing on any deficiencies in the FISA process and an open hearing on how FISA - which is a public law - operates. Anything less would violate our duty to the American people to ensure that the President is following the law and 4th Amendment."


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