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John McCain: Bush Right to Use NSA

Newsmax | December 19 2005

Sen. John McCain disappointed Democrats on Capitol Hill on Sunday by defending the Bush administration's decision to use the National Security Agency to monitor a limited number of domestic phone calls in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Saying that Sept. 11 "changed everything," McCain told ABC's "This Week": "The president, I think, has the right to do this."

"We all know that since Sept. 11 we have new challenges with enemies that exist within the United States of America - so the equation has changed."

McCain said that while the administration needs to explain why it didn't first seek approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, he suggested that the Patriot Act might have superseded the 1978 FISA Act, allowing "additional powers for the president."

McCain said the fact that congressional leaders - including top Democrats - were consulted on the NSA authorization "is a very important part of this equation." He suggested that any congressional hearings into the Bush decision focus on that aspect.
"I'd like to hear from the leaders of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who, according to reports, we're briefed on this and agreed to it," he told "This Week." "They didn't raise any objection, apparently, to [whether] there was a, quote, violation of law."

Asked about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's claim that she "raised concerns" about granting the NSA new powers during one meeting with White House officials, McCain said: "I don't know about any meetings, but I certainly never heard complaints from anyone on either side of the aisle.

"When this process was being carried out I would imagine that the leaders of Congress would be very concerned about any violation of law as well," he said. "Apparently [those concerns have] not been raised until it was published in the New York Times."

McCain also warned that any congressional investigation should take care not to force additional disclosures from the White House that could help the enemy, saying: "I don't see anything wrong with congressional hearings but what kind of information are you going to put into the public arena that might help the al Qaida people in going undetected."

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