Leahy receives White House executive privilege letter

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy returned to Washington today in hopes the Bush Administration would meet the Judiciary Committee’s deadline for information on warrantless wiretapping.

But Leahy returned to Washington only to find a letter.

VPR’s Sara Sciammacco reports from Capitol Hill:

(Sciammacco) The extended deadline to turn over the documents passed. Instead the White House sent a letter to Senator Leahy one month after the original date — claiming the "material is highly sensitive and potentially subject to executive privilege.

But Leahy argues he is not interested in the operational details of the surveillance program.

(Leahy) "What I have been asking, what other members of the committee have been asking both Democrats and Republicans, what was the legality."

(Sciammacco) In June, the Judiciary committee which Leahy chairs subpoenaed information from the Administration on how it interpreted the law and how it justified wiretapping without court approval.

Leahy says for more than six years phone calls of Americans have been wiretapped without warrants.

(Leahy) "We cannot and we should not legislate in the dark while the Administration hides behind the fictitious veil of secrecy."

(Sciammacco) The surveillance program began after 9/11 as a way to improve national security.

The Bush Administration argues a deadline after Labor Day would be more workable to further review the documents and reach an agreement with the Senate Committee.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Sara Sciammacco on Capitol Hill.

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