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Conservatives unhappy with Bush illegally spying on Americans

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From the Wall Street Journal

"It seems to me that if you're the president, you have to proceed with great caution when you do anything that flies in the face of the Constitution," said Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire who has served on a number of government intelligence advisory boards. He calls the administration's surveillance program "a matter of grave concern."...

President Bush and his top aides argued this week that they were on solid legal ground in ordering -- without going through the secret court -- large-scale eavesdropping of communications between the U.S. and other countries to thwart potential terrorist attacks. They claim they had the authority to conduct the spying under the president's powers as commander in chief, as well as under a congressional resolution that approved the use of force in Afghanistan in 2001.

Yet some prominent conservatives reject that argument. Some even have accused the administration of treading on the Constitution and stretching the prerogatives of the presidency to the detriment of balanced government.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, described the spy program as a case of "presidential overreaching" that he said most Americans would reject. Columnist George Will wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that "conservatives' wholesome wariness of presidential power has been a casualty of conservative presidents winning seven of the past 10 elections."

Bob Barr, a Georgia conservative who was one of the Republican Party's loudest opponents of government snooping until he left Congress in 2003, says the furor should stand as a test of Republicans' willingness to call their president to task. "This is just such an egregious violation of the electronic surveillance laws," Mr. Barr says.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has called the program "inappropriate" and promised to hold hearings early next year. Republicans joining him include centrist Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Sununu of New Hampshire, along with limited-government types like Larry Craig of Idaho.

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