Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

We told you earlier that President Clinton had defended his executive authority to perform wiretaps and searches of American citizens without a warrant and in fact, in February of 1995, authorized the attorney general "to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information."

Now it turns out that presidents going back to Jimmy Carter have authorized such actions. An executive order signed by President Carter in May of 1979 reads, "The attorney general is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order."

Intelligence Committee Issue?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says he's "puzzled" by that letter the committee's senior Democrat sent the vice president in 2003, expressing concerns over the NSA's domestic surveillance program — since he never heard those concerns at the time.

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller released the letter this week and in it, complained that security restrictions kept him from consulting with experts on the program, while arguing that it raised "profound oversight issues." But Roberts says he recalls that Rockefeller voiced his support to the vice president at the time and as recently as two weeks ago. He adds that Rockefeller is releasing the letter at a "politically advantageous" time... and says he finds the move "a bit disingenuous."

President's Plea

In a recent oval office meeting, President Bush pleaded with both the executive editor and the publisher of The New York Times not to run the story on NSA wiretaps. Nine days later, the Times published the story anyway. But the paper had decided not to run the same story more than a year ago and a Times source tells The New York Observer that the piece was regarded as dead. So why publish it now?

Turns out, the story's author, Times reporter James Risen, was set to release a book detailing the NSA program next month, leaving the Times with the choice of publishing the story or being scooped by their own reporter. The Times' Bill Keller tells the Los Angeles Times the book had nothing to do with it, saying, "We published the story when we did because after much hard work it was fully reported, checked and ready and because we were convinced there was no good reason not to publish it."

Improving on Iraq?

Further evidence that the president is gaining ground in public opinion on the War on Terror following a barrage of speeches defending his Iraq policy, including Sunday's prime time oval office address, by winning over independents and rallying his base.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 50 percent of Americans now believe the U.S. is winning the War on Terror, marking the highest level of confidence in more than a year. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans say the U.S. is winning, up from 71 percent before the speech. So do 44 percent of independents, up from 35 percent. But just 25 percent of Democrats share that view and 40 percent say the terrorists are winning.

— FOX News' Aaron Bruns contributed to this report

With more than 35 years of journalism experience to draw from, Brit Hume currently serves as a senior political analyst for FOX News Channel (FNC) and contributes to all major political coverage. Hume also is regular panelist on FOX's weekly public affairs program, "FOX News Sunday" on Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET. Click here for more information on Brit Hume