Sunday, January 08, 2006

Non-partisan Congress arm rejects Bush eavesdropping case

Congress arm rejects Bush eavesdropping case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A report by a research arm of Congress on Friday concluded the administration's justification for eavesdropping authorized by President George W. Bush conflicts with existing law, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The Congressional Research Services report, the first nonpartisan findings on the program to date, rejects key assertions made by Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about the president's authority to order the eavesdropping into telephone calls and e-mails, the paper wrote.

The 44-page CRS report said that Bush likely cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of phone calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001.

A 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, forbids domestic spying on U.S. citizens without the approval of a special court. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications without court approval.

Critics of the administration warn that civil liberties could be jeopardized by government eavesdropping practices that avoid judicial oversight.