Wednesday, December 21, 2005properly briefed on the expanded role of the NSA in monitoring the conversations of American citizens. This puts paid to the theory that this program had any form of congressional oversight whatsoever.
BY CAROL ROSENBERG
Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham reiterated Tuesday that the Bush administration never briefed him, as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about a covert domestic wiretap program -- and suggested the possibility that it grew out of ``a creep of presidential authority.''
Rather, Graham recalled being summoned to a classified briefing by Vice President Dick Cheney in late 2001 or early 2002. He was informed about a presidential directive that let the National Security Agency eavesdrop on overseas calls that moved through U.S. communications lines -- not people speaking on the phone inside the United States.
President Bush said in a national radio address Saturday that he had approved the secret NSA program more than 30 times under a law that required authorization every 45 days.
''I don't know whether these 35 findings represented a repetition of the first or whether they represented a creep of presidential authority,'' Graham said in a lengthy telephone interview with The Miami Herald.
Critics, including Graham, consider the activity illegal because the president empowered the spy agency to do it without judicial oversight.
At issue is precisely when and what mechanism the White House used to ignore, in some instances, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and authorized American wiretappers to listen in on calls between the United States and overseas that the NSA suspected involved al Qaeda members or sympathizers.