“I am here to explain the department’s assessment that the president’s terrorist surveillance program is consistent with our laws and Constitution,” Mr. Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s an early-warning system designed for the 21st century.”
Mr. Gonzales said President Bush would have been irresponsible not to have authorized the National Security Agency to undertake the surveillance program after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “And as with all wartime operations, speed, agility and secrecy are essential to its success,” he said.
But Mr. Gonzales immediately drew skeptical, sometimes harsh reactions from committee leaders. The panel’s chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said federal law prohibits “any electronic surveillance without a court order.”