WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman says he's prepared to force telephone company executives to testify about the White House's eavesdropping program if the Bush administration doesn't fully cooperate in drafting new rules on what's allowable.
"If we don't get some results, I'm prepared to go back to demand hearings and issue subpoenas if necessary," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Sunday on a cable news network.
Specter said he was more hopeful, after talking Thursday with Vice President Dick Cheney, that committee hearings and subpoenas could be avoided.
Specter had threatened to subpoena executives of major phone companies to get them to testify about their cooperation with the National Security Agency. But one company lawyer has told Specter the executives wouldn't be able to testify about any classified information.
Cheney indicated he was willing to work with Congress on new rules governing eavesdropping. But he stopped short of promising any action and said a final decision on the bill would be up to President Bush.
Specter is the most vocal Republican to oppose the White House's directive that allows the National Security Agency to monitor some calls and e-mails of Americans without court approval.
Administration officials have said the program requires that one party to the communication must be overseas, and terrorism must be suspected. Specter wants legislation to compel a secretive federal court to examine whether the program is constitutional.