Intelligence panel’s top Democrat: Bush should not circumvent law on terror monitoring |

Intelligence panel’s top Democrat: Bush should not circumvent law on terror monitoring

WASHINGTON – An intelligence law already gives the Bush administration the authority needed to monitor calls involving people with suspected terrorist links, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday.In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Jane Harman said she believed the monitoring program should have been conducted within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the changes passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”I believe that these modern authorities can cover the entire program, and so my question is why isn’t this happening?” Harman, D-Calif., said in an interview. “I think the authorities are adequate.”The FISA law established legal procedures for conducting intelligence-related searches and surveillance inside the United States.Critics of the program contend Bush overstepped his powers when he authorized the National Security Agency to monitor – without warrants – the communications of people inside the country whose calls and e-mails may be linked to al-Qaida.Senior administration officials have said they acted within the law in creating a program that gave intelligence collectors more flexibility.Gen. Michael Hayden, the government’s No. 2 intelligence official, has described FISA as too rigid for the fight against terrorism and said the law “involves marshaling arguments” and “looping paperwork around.”Harman said there are shortcuts in paperwork that “no doubt could be taken by efficient bureaucrats.”In her letter, she asked Bush, “If the post-9/11 amendments are insufficient, why were they proposed? If the modifications made by the Patriot Act are still inadequate, why didn’t the administration propose additional changes?”In an AP interview last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she believed Bush could have conducted the surveillance and followed FISA. “I would not want any president – Democrat or Republican – to have the expanded power the administration is claiming in this case,” she said.Vail, Colorado

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