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Old 05-12-2006, 02:00 PM   #2
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Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, said the reported data-mining activities raised serious constitutional questions. He said he planned to seek the testimony of telephone company executives.

The House majority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, said he wanted more information on the program because "I am not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information."

Mr. Bush did not directly confirm or deny the existence of the N.S.A. operation but said that "as a general matter every time sensitive intelligence is leaked it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy."

Seeking to distinguish call-tracing operations from eavesdropping, the president said that "the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval."

The phone records include numbers called, time, date and direction of calls and other details but not the words spoken, telecommunications experts said. Customers' names and addresses are not included in the companies' call records, though they could be cross-referenced to obtain personal data.

General Hayden, making rounds at the Capitol to seek support for his confirmation as C.I.A. director, did not discuss the report but defended his former agency. "Everything that N.S.A. does is lawful and very carefully done," General Hayden said.

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Ron Edmonds/Associated Press
"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." PRESIDENT BUSH


Video: Domestic Spying Controversy

Graphic: Domestic Surveillance Revelations and Responses
With Access Denied, Justice Department Drops Spying Investigation (May 11, 2006)
President Bush's Statement (May 11, 2006)
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts (Dec. 16, 2005)

The USA Today Article: NSA Has Massive Database of Americans' Phone Calls

Threats & Responses
Go to Complete Coverage
Readers’ Opinions
Forum: National Security

Doug Mills/The New York Times
"I don't think we can really make a judgment on whether warrants would be necessary until we know a lot more about the program." SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER

Doug Mills/The New York Times
"Everything that N.S.A. does is lawful and very carefully done." GEN. MICHAEL V. HAYDEN
The law on data-mining activities is murky, and legal analysts were divided Thursday on the question of whether the N.S.A.'s tracing and analysis of huge streams of American communications data would require the agency to use subpoenas or court warrants.

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said, "If they don't get a court order, it's a crime." She said that while the F.B.I. might be able to get access to phone collection databases by using an administrative subpoena, her reading of federal law was that the N.S.A. would be banned from doing so without court approval.

But another expert on the law of electronic surveillance, Kenneth C. Bass III, said that if access to the call database was granted in response to a national security letter issued by the government, "it would probably not be illegal, but it would be very troubling."

"The concept of the N.S.A. having near-real-time access to information about every call made in the country is chilling," said Mr. Bass, former counsel for intelligence policy at the Justice Department. He said the phone records program resembled Total Information Awareness, a Pentagon data-mining program shut down by Congress in 2003 after a public outcry.

The N.S.A. refused to discuss the report, but said in a statement that it "takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law."

AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth all issued statements saying they had followed the law in protecting customers' privacy but would not discuss details of the report.

"AT&T has a long history of vigorously protecting customer privacy," said Selim Bingol, a company spokesman. "We also have an obligation to assist law enforcement and other government agencies responsible for protecting the public welfare."

Mr. Specter said in an interview that he would press for information on the operations of the N.S.A. program to determine its legality.

"I don't think we can really make a judgment on whether warrants would be necessary until we know a lot more about the program," he said.

One central question is whether the N.S.A. uses its analysis of phone call patterns to select people in the United States whose phone calls and e-mail messages are monitored without warrants. The Times has reported that the agency is believed to have eavesdropped on the international communications of about 400 to 500 people at a time within the United States and of thousands of people since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Democrats said they would use the new disclosures to push for more answers from General Hayden at his confirmation hearing, set for May 18.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, predicted "a major Constitutional confrontation on Fourth Amendment guarantees of unreasonable search and seizure" and said the new disclosures presented "a growing impediment to the confirmation of General Hayden." Some members of Congress also reacted angrily to the news that the ethics office at the Justice Department had been refused the security clearances necessary to conduct a planned investigation of department lawyers who approved N.S.A.'s eavesdropping.

Mr. Specter called the denial of clearances to the department's own investigators "incomprehensible" and said he and other senators would ask that the clearances be granted to employees of the department's Office of Professional Responsibility

Ken Belson contributed reporting from New York for this article
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