WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 - President Bush's rationale for authorizing eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground and "may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb," according to a formal Congressional analysis released today.
The analysis, conducted by the Congressional Research Service, an independent research arm of Congress, is the first formal assessment of a question that has gripped Washington for the last three weeks: Did President Bush act within the law when he ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans?
While the Congressional report reached no bottom-line conclusions on whether the program is legal or not, it concluded that the legal rationale appears somewhat dubious. The legal rationale "does not seem to be as well-grounded" as the Bush administration's lawyers have suggested, and Congress did not appear to have intended to authorize warrantless wiretaps when it gave President Bush the authority to wage war against Al Qaeda in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report concluded.
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