[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] late Monday concluded a day of testimony [JURIST report] before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on the Bush administration's controversial domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. Although Gonzales maintained that the wiretapping program was a vital "early warning system" for terrorists, several Republicans and Democrats continued to challenge the president's authority to initiate the program carried out by the National Security Agency [official website].
Gonzales defended the program as being lawful, reasonable, and essential but refused to answer detailed questions about its current operations, citing program secrecy. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website] asked Gonzales whether the president had broken any laws, to which Gonzales responded, "The president has not authorized any conduct that I'm aware of that is in contravention of law." Republicans expressed fear that future presidents could be hurt when asking for authorizations since the Bush administration has interpreted the 2001 Congressional resolution [PDF text] authorizing military use against al-Qaida so broadly. Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] predicted that the committee would hold at least two more hearings on the topic, which may include more testimony by Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.