Bob Schieffer Appalled by Idea GOP Congress Might Expand Authority to Eavesdrop

When John Roberts wrapped up his report Wednesday night, about President Bush's visit to the National Security Administration (NSA) in Maryland, by relaying how “one Republican Senator told CBS News tonight she might consider loosening the standards for approving the wiretap and allowing more officials at the Justice Department, not just the Attorney General, to authorize eavesdropping, so that it could begin just as soon as the NSA needed it,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer seemed astounded: "Now, just a second, John. Are you telling me there's a feeling amongst Republicans up in the Congress that they're going to give more people in the government the authority to eavesdrop without warrants? Is that what you're saying here?" Roberts confirmed how “that's what one Republican Senator is suggesting.” Schieffer remained astonished: "Well, what do you think the mood is up there? Do you think anything like that could pass?" Roberts passed along how “it's certainty being considered by Republicans. They've got the majority in the Senate and in the House, and if they want it they'll probably get it.” To which Schieffer shot back: "Well, we'll sure see about that.” (Transcript follows.)

Roberts referred to the Republican Senator as “she,” which I believe -- if I've memorized the Senate make-up properly -- narrows it down to one of four woman: Senators Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas or Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. My money is on Hutchison.

From the January 25 CBS Evening News, picking up after John Roberts reported how some NSAers are concerned about being drawn into lawsuits.
Roberts: “NSA officials aren't likely to be called in the first round of hearings, but in a letter, the Attorney General was warned by the Judiciary Committee chair, he's in for a full day of grilling on February 6th. Among the questions: Why did the President bypass the federal court that covers wiretaps, and how does he justify not more fully informing Congress? The President insists he has informed Congress, but complains existing laws aren't nimble enough to cover the explosion of technology through which terrorists communicate. The growing response from Republicans in Congress: Tell us what you need, we'll write new laws. In fact, one Republican Senator told CBS News tonight, she might consider loosening the standards for approving the wiretap and allowing more officials at the Justice Department, not just the Attorney General, to authorize eavesdropping, so that it could begin just as soon as the NSA needed it, Bob.”

Schieffer: “Now, just a second, John. Are you telling me there's a feeling amongst Republicans up in the Congress that they're going to give more people in the government the authority to eavesdrop without warrants? Is that what you're saying here?”

Roberts, on the White House lawn: “That's what one Republican Senator is suggesting, that instead of making all eavesdropping or wiretapping requests go through the Attorney General, that some lower level officials might be available and able to be able to authorize those wiretaps. It would spread it out among dozens of people as opposed to just a single one at the top.”

Schieffer, still astonished: “Well, what do you think the mood is up there? Do you think anything like that could pass?”

Roberts: “It's certainty being considered by Republicans. They've got the majority in the Senate and in the House, and if they want it they'll probably get it.”

Schieffer: “Well, we'll sure see about that. Thank you very much, John.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center