WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan support grew on Capitol Hill yesterday for stricter regulation of President Bush's spying program, as senators briefed by administration officials about the surveillance termed the information "inadequate" and called for more investigation of the eavesdropping.
The 16-member Senate Intelligence Committee met for three hours to hear about the program conducted by the National Security Agency, which the president has said was aimed at intercepting communications between terrorist operatives operating outside U.S. borders and persons inside the country. Congress members have said Bush's authorization of the warrantless surveillance, which he issued shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, violated U.S. laws that require the government to obtain warrants for spying inside the country.
"I believe that we can end this controversy about the constitutionality of this program very simply -- and that is to deal with it by legislation," Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said after the briefing.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, deputy national intelligence director, conducted a second day of briefings for lawmakers, offering what the White House described as operational details of the program. They held a briefing for the House Intelligence committee a day earlier.
"These are highly classified briefings for the full intelligence committees, and they are designed to talk about how this terrorist surveillance program works," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We wanted to provide additional information so ... the Intelligence committee had a better understanding of how this program is carefully tailored and it's closely monitored."
The administration long resisted providing Congress with details of the program but changed course this week when it became clear that Republicans as well as Democrats were dissatisfied with their explanations of the program and its legal basis.