Congress to Vote on Domestic Spying Probe

Congress could vote Tuesday on whether to investigate President Bush's domestic spying program. Republican leaders say they'd rather put the National Security Agency program under congressional supervision than open a probe.

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The National Security Agency faces questions about the way it gathered information without permission. A Senate committee can vote today on whether to examine that eavesdropping, as NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

The White House sharply opposes having Congress investigate the warrant less NSA spying. President Bush calls it, "a terrorist surveillance program," and he insists he has the authority to carry it out, despite a federal law requiring court approval of all domestic spying. Last month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Pat Roberts angered Democrats on his panel, by not holding the vote they were pushing for to open an investigation into the NSA spying. Roberts suggested, at the time, that vote could come at today's meeting.

Senator PAT ROBERTS (Republican, Kansas): If, by that time, we have reached no detailed accommodation with the administration with regard to the committee's oversight role, it is very possible that the committee may well vote to conduct an inquiry into the program.

WELNA: Late last week, Senate Republican leader Bill Frist wrote his Democratic counterpart Harry Reid, asking that Democrats stop demanding, what Frist called, "politically motivated investigations." Reid said yesterday, it was Intelligence Chair Roberts himself who spoke of voting for a probe today.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): I believe that we should see if Senator Roberts is a man of his word, and is going to allow a vote. This is what you've been an asking, is an investigation of what's happening with this NSA spying.

WELNA: Roberts, at the very least, is expected to propose some kind of the congressional monitoring of the NSA domestic surveillance. But a couple of Republicans on his panel have also asked for an investigation, and it would take only one of them, joining the committee's Democrats, for a vote on the probe to pass. It's still not clear whether such a vote will, in fact, be held today.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capital.

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