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Specter: Bush could face impeachment

Capitol Hill Blue | January 16 2006

The powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee admitted Sunday President Bush could face impeachment over his authorization for spying on Americans by the National Security Agency.

"The remedy could be a variety of things, including impeachment or criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy … under our society is to pay a political price," Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter told ABC's "This Week."

"But," Specter added. "I don't see any talk about impeachment here."

Even so, Specter said he and his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are "not going to give him a blank check, and just because we're of the same party doesn't mean we're not going to look at this very closely."

Specter joins a growing chorus of Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the legal justification for spying on Americans by the super-secret NSA.
Specter, who will hold hearings next month on the decision to allow the NSA program without court approval, said he has told Bush administration officials he believes they are on shaky legal ground.

Bush has pointed to a congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that authorized him to use force in the fight against terrorism as allowing him to order the program. The program authorized eavesdropping of international phone calls and e-mails of people deemed a terror risk.

"I thought they were wrong," Specter said on ABC's "This Week." "There still may be different collateral powers under wartime situations. That is a knotty question."

A number of members of Specter's committee, including GOP Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, have expressed doubt about the administration's legal basis. The hearings, planned for early February, will feature Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Specter noted that impeachment and criminal prosecution are possibilities in the event a president acted unconstitutionally.

But Specter added: "I don't see any talk about impeachment here. I don't think anyone doubts the president is making a good-faith effort. He's acting in a way that he feels he must."

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