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Gonzales Defends Surveillance: Senators From Both Parties Challenge Attorney General on Program


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By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales spent more than seven hours yesterday sparring with skeptical lawmakers over a controversial domestic eavesdropping program, defending its legality while refusing to answer dozens of questions about its operations or whether President Bush has authorized other types of warrantless searches or surveillance in the United States….

The Justice Department argues in a 42-page legal analysis that Bush has the inherent power to mount warrantless surveillance in a time of war, even if that includes spying on U.S. citizens or residents, and that Congress reinforced his power by passing a resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda after the terrorist attacks. Although the administration has attracted support from some conservative scholars and many GOP lawmakers, legal and national security experts from both parties have argued that Bush overstepped his authority and may have broken the federal law that governs clandestine surveillance in the United States….

In one of the tensest exchanges, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a longtime critic of the administration’s counterterrorism policies, angrily accused Gonzales and Bush of misleading Congress by implying that the government was not engaged in wiretapping or other surveillance without a court’s approval.

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