Powell: Warrants Would Have Prevented Spying Uproar

In an interview with ABC's This Week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that he does not object to President Bush authorizing a domestic spying program but that he believes the controversy could have been avoided by obtaining court warrants.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now in this country, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he understands why President Bush authorized an eavesdropping program after the September 11 attacks. Powell said it's harder to understand why the president did not follow a law on surveillance. The president acknowledges that he approved spying on people in the US suspected of ties to terrorism. His former secretary of State spoke to ABC over the weekend.

General COLIN POWELL (Former Secretary of State): In the aftermath of 9/11, the American people had one concern and that was, `Protect us.' And so I see absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of action and it's Congress who will have to make a judgment as to whether or not they think the president was using the law correctly or not.

Unidentified Man: What do you think?

Gen. POWELL: And it's going to be a great debate. My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me anyway that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that. And then three days later you let the court know what you have done and deal with it that way.

INSKEEP: Secretary Powell is referring to a law passed by Congress in the 1970s after a scandal over spying on Americans. That law permits surveillance in the US provided the government gets permission from a secret court. The president says he has the authority to bypass that court and his contention will be tested in congressional hearings next month.

Last week The New York Times offered more details of that program. The Times says the government got help from telecommunications companies and it gained access to streams of data, both domestic and international.

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