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Gonzales: Spying Covered by Force Authorization

Congress' use-of-force authorization, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, gave the Bush administration the power to use electronic surveillance, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says. Although not specifically mentioned in the measure, domestic spying is a necessary part of the effort to fight terrorism, he says.

Lawmakers and other critics have accused President Bush of sidestepping the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by not getting approval of a special FISA court for the wiretaps.

Gonzales disagrees. "It's long been the case, as long as we've had electronic surveillance, that the United States has engaged in electronic surveillance of the enemy during a time of war," Gonzales says. "It is a fundamental incident of waging war. And therefore we believe that the authorization to use force was an authorization by Congress to engage in electronic surveillance, and therefore is fully consistent with the provisions of FISA."

Gonzales also says that members of Congress have been briefed on the secret program several times and that requests for eavesdropping are reviewed by National Security Agency officials and lawyers at the NSA and Justice Department.

"It's not a decision made by someone who is inexperienced or someone who is a political appointee..." Gonzales says. "It's a decision made by career professionals."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michele Norris