WASHINGTON – Despite calls by the White House to amend the nation's intelligence laws in order to better fight the War on Terror, a leading Senate Democrat says he remains skeptical of Bush administration intentions and what he deems an "outrageous attack on the privacy of the American people."
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told "FOX News Sunday" that the White House is oversimplifying calls for reform and trying force a "kitchen sink" of changes through Congress.
"They're trying to take items that go through the normal courts and put them into secret courts. They're trying to basically gut the FISA law as part of this process," Feingold said. "So it's the old game they play. They did it on the Patriot Act. They did it on military commissions where they threw all kinds of inappropriate things. They bring up something that everybody agrees on, and then they throw the kitchen sink in and try to jam it through at the last minute."
President Bush on Saturday said that American national security depends on Congress amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to enable the U.S. to better monitor alleged terrorist communications. He said the U.S. "can close intelligence gaps (that) provide critical warning time for our country."
Feingold said Democrats and Republicans could forge a compromise on necessary changes to the nation's laws in "one day" if the White House were more straightforward. But he called the current FISA requests "outrageous."
The three-term senator who has called for censuring the president also reiterated demands that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged perjury by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Feingold said the outside investigation was necessary to determine whether the embattled attorney general misled Congress on details of the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program.
"Now, the truth is that the attorney general, in my view, has at least lied to Congress and may have committed perjury, and I think we need to have somebody who's able to look at both the classified and non-classified material in a way that he can actually determine whether or not criminal charges have to be pursued," he said.
While the Democrats have been investigating Gonzales for wrongdoing on a number of fronts for nearly six months, Feingold acknowledged that he has yet to discover a "smoking gun." However, he added that the inquiry will continue since Congress has yet to receive all the information it has requested. "How are you supposed to examine (all of the evidence) when you can't look at it?" he asked.
Feingold plans to introduce censure resolutions against the president this week, his second attempt to censure the president in as many years. Though his proposal has received mixed reviews among Democrats, Feingold said the bill is necessary to hold the administration for it's "shameful" record on Iraq and civil liberties.
"There needs to be some historic recognition that these things are wrong," he said. "If the Congress does nothing, what will our children and grandchildren say when they look at the historical record of an administration that has abused the American people?"