Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, reports today that “Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday that the domestic spying authorized by the White House “doesn’t uphold our Constitution,” and that President Bush offered a “lame” defense in recent public appearances.” Kerry also said the “alleged White House leak of a CIA agent’s identity was more serious than the media’s disclosure of the spying program.”
Bush said Monday that it was “a shameful act” for someone to have leaked details of the program to The New York Times, and he suggested the Justice Department is investigating the leak.
Though leaking any classified information is against the law, “there is a world of difference between what the president’s engaged in and what was leaked out of the White House,” Kerry told reporters after addressing ironworkers at a local labor hall.
“The leak in the White House was an effort to destroy somebody and his family and attack them for telling the truth,” the senator said, referring to former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame. Her identity as a CIA analyst was exposed in July 2003 after Wilson challenged an administration justification for the Iraqi war.
“The leak that took place in this case is a leak that _ I’m not excusing it _ is to tell the truth about something that violates the rights of Americans and doesn’t uphold our Constitution,” Kerry said.
During his news conference Monday, Bush issued a forceful defense of the program he first authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks, saying Congress gave him the power to authorize the spying under a broad mandate to protect the country “by all means necessary.”
“I think the president’s explanation is lame,” Kerry said. “The fact is that there is no wording whatsoever in the law that permits what he engaged in. … And the president’s claim that he has some inherent authority to do this _ against the stated intention of Congress not to _ is simply wrong.”
Bush’s senior aides have said the program was narrowly targeted at individuals with a suspected link to al-Qaida or affiliated extremist groups. They said there is often no time to use a special federal court empowered by Congress to approve domestic spying, even though that approval can be sought after spying is conducted in time-sensitive cases.