Washington House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says President Bush should have used his authority under the law to monitor suspected terrorists rather than approve the National Security Agency's disputed monitoring program.
"I would not want any president - Democrat or Republican - to have the expanded power the administration is claiming in this case," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pelosi did not say the NSA's surveillance program was illegal.
But she said the administration should follow procedures in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows government lawyers to ask a secretive court for warrants for surveillance in the United States during national security investigations.
"If you say ... this is for a narrow universe of calls, there is absolutely no issue with getting a FISA warrant for that," said Pelosi, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and has been involved for the past 13 years in overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies.
"It is when you go beyond that, that it becomes a challenge," she said in the interview Friday. "The president says he is not going beyond that, so why can't he obey the law?"
Pelosi declined to offer specifics about warrants granted, but she said the administration already has "the mother of all FISAs which enables them to do a lot."
Shortly after the attacks of 9-11, Bush approved a program that allows warrantless monitoring by the NSA of the international communications of people on U.S. soil who may be linked to al-Qaida.
The Justice Department, in the administration's most recent defense of the NSA program, issued on Friday a six-point "Myth vs. Reality" rebuttal of criticism leveled against Bush's action.
It claims Bush has legal authority through his position as commander in chief as well as through a congressional resolution passed shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks.