The Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said today that he believed the Bush administration had violated the law with its warrantless surveillance program and that its legal justifications for the program were “strained and unrealistic.”
The program “is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” said the chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who will open committee hearings on Monday.
But the deputy director of national intelligence, Gen. Michael Hayden of the Air Force, who oversaw the program when he headed the National Security Agency, defended it from assertions that it had cast too broad a net, intercepting the calls of perhaps thousands of innocent Americans, and produced only modest results in pursuit of the Qaeda terror network.
“It’s about speed,” General Hayden said on ABC. “It’s about hot pursuit of Al Qaeda communications.”
Senator Specter said that his committee was trying to secure testimony from former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other former Bush administration officials, including some who are said to have questioned the legality of the program in its initial years.
Democrats have urged Mr. Specter to ask the administration to waive executive privilege to allow former officials to testify candidly.