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Bush defends NSA wiretapping program, Schumer calls for testimony from top officials

[JURIST] President Bush on Sunday defended the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST archive], saying the program was "limited" and was not a violation of civil liberties. Answering questions [transcript] about the program during a visit to wounded troops at the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Bush also said that officials only wiretapped conversations that involved known al Qaeda or associated phone numbers. Bush stressed that the administration sought to have the secret program reviewed by Department of Justice officials as well as members of Congress while it was implemented. AP has more.

Meanwhile Sunday, US Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website], discussing the Department of Justice's investigation [JURIST report] into the source of the classified information that led to the disclosure [JURIST report] of the NSA secret wiretapping program, said that the DOJ should thoroughly investigate the situation [AP report] before deciding whether to characterize the leaker as a felon intending to compromise national security, or as a whistleblower attempting to uncover illegal activity. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Schumer also said that several members of the Bush administration should be ordered to testify [FNS transcript] in front of the Senate committee investigating the NSA wiretapping program. Schumer was referring to a report in Sunday's New York Times that in March 2004 then Deputy Attorney General James Comey, acting as attorney general while John Ashcroft [official profile] was hospitalized, refused to sign off on the program's continued use, expressing concern over the legality of the program. Alberto Gonzales [official profile], White House counsel at the time, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card [official profile] reportedly then went to the hospitalized Ashcroft for approval. It is not clear whether Ashcroft certified the program or whether the White House proceeded without it. Reuters has more.

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