Friday, February 17, 2006

AJC: Sen. Roberts makes a backroom deal with the White House "Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said Thursday that the White House has agreed 'in principle' to changes in the warrantless surveillance program, but Democrats accused the chairman of working with the White House to stall an investigation of the controversial program.

Roberts (R-Kansas) announced the agreement to reporters on Capitol Hill following an hourlong meeting of the committee in which its members had been expected to vote on whether to investigate the eavesdropping program being conducted by the highly secretive National Security Agency on orders from President Bush.

Roberts postponed the vote, however, contending that an investigation is no longer necessary because 'we reached an agreement in principle with the administration' to address congressional complaints that the program violates federal laws and that the administration has not provided as much information to Congress about the program as it should.

'The administration is now committed to legislation and has agreed to brief more intelligence committee members on the nature of their surveillance program,' Roberts said. He declined to provide details of the agreement, saying it would 'take some time to work out.'

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, responded with accusations that committee members had employed 'another stalling tactic' at the urging of the White House.

'It is more than apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent days, in recent weeks to prevent the committee from doing its job,' Rockefeller told reporters after the meeting. 'The very independence of this committee is called into question as we are continually prevented from having a full accounting of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, the CIA's detention, interrogation and rendition program, and, now, the NSA's warrantless surveillance and eavesdropping program.'

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has gone to court seeking documents related to the NSA's activities, accused Roberts and the White House of a 'backroom deal' to cover up the details of the program."


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