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Senator slams Cheney for lobbying Congress on wiretaps

Published: Wednesday June 7, 2006

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In a terse and highly unusual letter to Vice President Cheney, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today rejected the Bush administration’s insistence that a secret wire tapping program being conducted on U.S. civilians by the National Security Agency is legal, complaining that efforts by the White House to stonewall Congressional inquiries into the program “denigrates the constitutional authority and responsibility of the Congress and specifically the Judiciary Committee to conduct oversight on constitutional issues," ROLL CALL reports Wednesday.

(Video of Specter explaining his anger on CNN can be viewed at this link)


Specter’s anger peaked Tuesday after he learned that Cheney had been lobbying Republican members of the committee to “oppose any Judiciary Committee hearing, even a closed one” that involved telephone companies that have cooperated with the NSA. “I was surprised, to the say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the Committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point,” Specter wrote in the letter, adding that “this was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republicans Senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table.”

Specter has authored legislation to require the NSA program be brought under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which would require wire taps be signed off on by a judge prior to being initiated.

Specter warned Cheney that this stonewalling must end and that “if an accommodation cannot be reached ... The Judiciary Committee will consider confronting the issue with subpoenas and enforcement of that compulsory process if it appears that a majority vote will be forthcoming.”

Specter's angry three page letter to Vice President Cheney can be found at this link.