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Congress said no on war powers: Daschle
Yahoo News/Reuters
December 23, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress rejected the Bush administration's request for war-making authority in talks on a resolution passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle said in Friday's edition of The Washington Post.

Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota who helped negotiate the resolution with the White House, said the resolution did not grant President Bush authority to order warrantless spying on Americans suspected of terrorist ties. Daschle said warrantless wiretaps of Americans never came up in the negotiations.

"I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps," Daschle wrote in an article on the Post's opinion page. "I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance."

Daschle said the White House sought, but failed, to have included in the resolution language that would have given the president war powers within the United States. He said he refused "to accede to the extraordinary request for additional authority."

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text."

"This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens," Daschle wrote.

"If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate, the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after September 11," Daschle wrote.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that the Justice Department acknowledged, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978.

The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, asserted that Congress implicitly created an exception to the warrant requirement of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by authorizing Bush to use military force in response to the September 11 attacks, the newspaper reported.

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and senior administration officials defend the policy of authorizing -- without court orders -- eavesdropping on international phone calls and e-mails by Americans suspected of links to terrorism.

They argue it was legal and provided the agility -- beyond the 1978 law allowing court-warranted eavesdropping -- to help defend the country after the Sept 11. attacks.

A small bipartisan group of senators has called for U.S. congressional hearings into whether the government eavesdropped without appropriate legal authority.