Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush blocked eavesdropping program probe

President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.

Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without access to the sensitive program, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility closed its investigation in April.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., the committee chairman, asked Gonzales.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales replied.

Later, at the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said the eavesdropping program is reviewed every 45 days by senior officials, including Gonzales. The president did not consider the Justice unit that functions as a legal ethics watchdog to be the "proper venue," Snow said.

FULL STORY

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