WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney had his top legal advisers urge the National Security Agency to intercept domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants, but NSA lawyers and then-NSA chief Michael Hayden resisted, according to a report out Sunday.
The New York Times reports that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Cheney began pushing for the changes, but Hayden objected to moving forward on the vice president's plan.
NSA officials pointed out to the vice president that strict rules prohibit domestic spying without warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Insisting the program should be limited to communications into and out of the country, Hayden's position prevailed.
The vice president's daughter, Mary Cheney, told "FOX News Sunday" it is widely known that her father takes a hardline approach to the War on Terror. She added that he obeys the law but also believes every effort should be implemented to prevent another terror attack.
"Whatever internal debates may have been going on, I would want to point out that it has been five years since this country has been hit and that is not an accident," said Cheney, who at age 36 just published her autobiography.
Hayden is President Bush's choice to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. During his weekly radio address on Saturday, Bush called on Congress to confirm Hayden quickly.
Bush National Security Adviser Steven Hadley also defends the NSA's wiretap programs, saying the warrantless wiretap program that was first uncovered last year is legal despite the FISA court's not having been consulted.
"The terrorist surveillance program that has been talked about in the press is a narrowly defined program. It is a program that is in a way to detect and prevent attacks in the United States. And it requires people to be very agile, to use information, see it is an investigation of a plot. And the FISA legal structure is not designed for this kind of function. That's the problem," Hadley told CBS' "Face the Nation."
Hayden's confirmation hearing begins this week. Lawmakers say they will demand more from the general about the NSA wiretap program.
"The American people need to be assured that their government is, in fact, following the law, not just protecting the security interests of our country, but also the constitutional rights of individual Americans. We can do both. We always have done both," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told ABC's "This Week."
"In this case, I've spoken to Hadley, to the vice president, I've spoken to General Hayden and Director Negroponte about the need to move the entire program under the Foreign Intelligence [Surveillance] Act. That is the exclusive way to eavesdrop on Americans and until they do that, they are violating the law and that is why I call them a lawless White House," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
In other news related to Cheney, FOX News has learned that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald claims Cheney made handwritten notes on his copy of a New York Times op-ed article by Ambassador Joe Wilson dated July 6, 2003.
The article criticized the pre-Iraq war intelligence from Niger, which Wilson says he contradicted after being sent there on assignment in 2002 to determine whether Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium. He concluded no deal had been made.
He says when the Bush administration used other intelligence to bolster its case for war against Iraq, he went public with the New York Times op-ed.
According to Fitzgerald, Cheney wrote in the margins of his paper: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"
Those notes are part of court filings in the criminal case against Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby, which centers on who leaked the name of CIA employee and Wilson spouse Valerie Plame. Cheney's notes do not reference Plame by name. Her name was made public eight days after Wilson's article, in a column by Bob Novak.
The filings do not explain how prosecutors know the handwritten notes were made by Cheney or when the notes were written. But Fitzgerald says they will be used during Libby's trial in January.
The notations "support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant — his chief of staff — on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in the article and on responding to those assertions."
The article containing Cheney's notes "reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president to Mr. Wilson's Op Ed article," the prosecutor said. "This is relevant to establishing some of the facts that were viewed as important by the defendant's immediate superior, including whether Mr. Wilson's wife had 'sent him on a junket,' the filing states.
FOX News' Kelly Wright and The Associated Press contributed to this report.