Redirect Spotlight to Bush Policies on 'War on Terror'

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NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr revisits an issue that has lately been upstaged by the election campaign and other front-page news: the battle between Congress and the Bush administration over policies related to the so-called "War on Terror." Specifically — waterboarding, surveillance and the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes.

DANIEL SCHORR: Upstaged by the election campaign and economic stimulus, a low-intensity war is going on between congressional Democrats and the Bush administration.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: They're fighting over actions and policies related to the so-called war on terror, and it's happening on three fronts: first, the issue of waterboarding. Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today and maintained his refusal to define waterboarding as illegal. He would only say that the practice is not currently being used. Obviously, had he said otherwise, he might have exposed interrogators, who did use waterboarding, to legal action.

And then there is a matter of hundreds of hours of videotapes CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects. The tapes were destroyed on orders from - well, that's the question.

Attorney General Mukasey has named a U.S. attorney to conduct a criminal inquiry. And that has enabled Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA clandestine services chief, to invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify before the House Intelligence Committee without immunity from prosecution.

Next, the issue of wiretapping. The administration is fighting for reauthorization of a massive surveillance program that's (unintelligible) called the Protect America Act. And issue between the White House and congressional Democrats is the demand for retroactive immunity for communications companies that have cooperated with the eavesdropping program.

The present act was due to expire this Friday but has been extended for another 15 days while the skirmish just goes on.

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush asserted a solemn duty to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans. And that, he said, meant liability protection for companies that have cooperated with the eavesdropping program.

Well, I can imagine Mr. Bush, if nothing else avails, issuing a blanket pardon for phone companies that may have broken the law. I can see these backstage battles spinning on for the rest of the president's term.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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