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Senate hearing on Bush wiretapping begins

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began his defense Monday of President Bush's warrantless wiretapping before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In his prepared opening remarks, Gonzales said the practice of allowing the National Security Agency to monitor telephone calls, e-mail and faxes without a warrant is "firmly grounded in the president's constitutional authorities."

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Bush authorized the practice shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Gonzales has repeatedly stood behind the legality of it.

"Congress and the American people are interested in two fundamental questions: Is this program necessary and is it lawful? The answer to both questions is yes," Gonzales said.

Some critics have argued the program is illegal because Congress required a court warrant for wiretaps when it passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, CNN said.

Sunday, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Gen. Michael Hayden also defended the program on ABC television's "This Week."

"What (the president's) authorization does is make it far more likely that NSA will be able to detect, grab, intercept al-Qaida communications that are most important, Hayden said.

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