Top officials: Bush can still wiretap US citizens without warrant
Senior Bush administration officials said Tuesday that they believe the president still has the constitutional authority to continue his domestic wiretapping program without first seeking court approval.
"Senior U.S. administration officials have told the U.S. Congress that they could not promise that the Bush administration would fulfill its January pledge to continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program," reports the International Herald Tribune.
In January, the administration agreed to seek court-approved warrants for all wiretaps of US citizens and other living inside the US.
But during a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) that he could not promise that Bush would always seek warrants for domestic wiretaps.
"Sir, the president's authority under Article II is in the Constitution," McConnell said. "So if the president chose to exercise Article II authority, that would be the president's call."
Article II of the US Constitution outlines the power and responsibilities of the executive branch of government.
Yesterday, RAW STORY reported that McConnell urged Congress to update the 978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), under which January's agreement placed the controversial domestic spying program.
Critics say that updating FISA could legalize the warrantless domestic wiretaps.
Senate Intelligence Committee members are equally skeptical according to the Associated Press.
"Is the administration's proposal necessary, or does it take a step further down a path that we will regret as a nation?" asked Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) of McConnell at Tuesday's hearing.
Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse also expressed trepidation saying, "We look through the lens of the past to judge how much we can trust you."
"Like other senators, he said that trust had been undermined by the recent disclosure that the FBI had abused so-called national security letters to obtain information about Americans," writes the AP.