Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has not justified why the Bush administration failed to seek court approval for domestic surveillance, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is holding a hearing today on the issue. Specter said yesterday he believes President Bush violated a 1978 law calling for a secret court to consider and approve such monitoring, reports the Associated Press. He called Gonzales’ explanations “strained and unrealistic.”
Under a National Security Agency program started after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government has eavesdropped, without seeking warrants, on international phone calls and e-mails of people in the U.S. who are considered terrorism risks. In testimony prepared for today’s hearing, Gonzales argues that Bush had authority under a 2001 congressional resolution authorizing force in the fight against terrorism and that heeding the 1978 law would be too cumbersome. “The terrorist surveillance program operated by the NSA requires the maximum in speed and agility, since even a very short delay may make the difference between success and failure in preventing the next attack,” Gonzales said in statements obtained by the Associated Press.