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In letter to Congress, Justice Dept. defends illegal spying on Americans
Yahoo News/USA Today
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
December 23, 2005

The Bush administration outlined an unflinching defense of the president's recently disclosed domestic spying program in a letter to Congress asserting that the action is a "reasonable" strategy to secure the nation during a time of war.

The Justice Department letter, transmitted late Thursday to leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, comes in response to criticism challenging the legal authority of a program that allows for surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies in the USA without a court-ordered warrant.

"Foreign intelligence collections, especially in the midst of an armed conflict in which the adversary has already launched catastrophic attacks within the United States, fits squarely within the 'special needs' exception to warrant requirement," Assistant Attorney General William Moschella wrote in the five-page letter.

Moschella said the presidential authority allowing for the surveillance conducted by the super-secret National Security Agency was deeply rooted in what is known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force approved by Congress Sept. 14, 2001, before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

That authorization, Moschella wrote, provided President Bush broad authority, including the power "to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance within the United States."

Bush acknowledged the existence of the secret operation after it was revealed last week in The New York Times.

Bush said the program was reserved for monitoring the international communications of people in the USA with suspected links to al-Qaeda.

"Intercepting communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al-Qaeda in order to detect and prevent a catastrophic attack is clearly reasonable," Moschella said.

Moschella's letter also marks a likely preview of the administration's strategy to defend the program in upcoming hearings on the matter promised by congressional leaders.

Bush, Moschella's letter said, determined the nation needed "an early warning system" after the 9/11 attacks.

Commentary:
Courts look at the intent of Congress and Congress never gave Bush dictatorial power. Intellectual dwarfism is wide-spread throughout the Bush White House and Justice Department.