Gonzales Invokes Actions of Other Presidents in Defense of U.S. Spying
Ramping up the administration's defense of its domestic eavesdropping program, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Tuesday invoked the lessons of George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt in justifying President Bush's broad power to wage war against terrorism.
Mr. Gonzales, in his speech, cited the arc of history in justifying an expansive view of presidential power. He said the country's "long tradition of wartime enemy surveillance," often without warrants, was seen in numerous historical precedents, including George Washington's interception of mail between the British and Americans, telegraph wiretapping in the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson's order in World War I to intercept cable communications between Europe and the United States and Franklin Roosevelt's order after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to intercept all communications traffic into and out of the United States.
Mr. Gonzales said that government lawyers had carefully reviewed the N.S.A. program numerous times. It was found to be legal, he said, under both the president's inherent constitutional authority as commander in chief and under a resolution passed by Congress in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks that authorized Mr. Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible.
A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service earlier this month, however, called that particular claim into question, suggesting that Congress never intended to give the president power to order wiretaps without a warrant.
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