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Roberts in the wiretap fray

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President Bush's campaign to defend warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency is once again raising the profile of Sen. Pat Roberts.[The New York Times][1] reports:While the president was visiting the agency, the two parties on Capitol Hill spent the day in an exchange of dueling letters. Senate and House Democrats pressed their Republican counterparts to hold additional hearings beyond those already scheduled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Republicans suggested that Democrats were trying to use the issue for political advantage and jeopardizing national security.Likewise, all seven Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee urged the panel chairman to hold hearings to address, among other issues, "the legal justifications for the program."In yet another letter, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Republican who leads the Intelligence Committee, fired back expressing annoyance over the Democrats' complaints.Mr. Roberts said he was already planning a closed-door briefing for the committee by the Justice Department on Feb. 1, and another closed-door meeting related to the program two weeks after that. He suggested that Democrats had bypassed protocol by making their pleas public before giving him a chance to respond."I think we can all agree that intelligence issues, especially in the middle of a war, should not be used as fodder for political advantage," Mr. Roberts said. "Doing so is unnecessary, unwise and potentially dangerous."[Cox News Service][2] adds: _On Capitol Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., asked the Justice Department to pro vide a briefing on the program Feb. 1.Roberts also scheduled a Feb. 16 committee meeting to discuss whether the panel will hold hearings on the matter, weeks after Democrats on the committee began pressing for an inquiry._[GovExec.com][3] notes: _Under committee rules, Roberts is obligated to hold a meeting if at least five members formally ask for one. All seven Democrats on the panel signed the request to Roberts.A majority vote is needed to move ahead with the investigation. Two Republicans on the committee, Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, have asked Roberts for a hearing on the matter. Roberts has said nothing publicly about holding a hearing. A press call asking whether the senator plans for any hearings was not returned by press time._As noted in the New York Times story, the Senate Judiciary Commitee will hold hearings on the matter. That committee includes Sen. Sam Brownback - who has, so far, sounded skeptical of the Bush Administration's justification for wiretaps.How to contact As always, you can find information to contact members of the Kansas congressional delegation [here.][4] [1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/26/politics/26nsa.html?_r=1 [2]: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/myrtlebeachonline/news/nation/13714687.htm [3]: http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=33238&dcn=todaysnews [4]: http://ljworld.com/extra/where_to_write.html#fed

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