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Wiretap plan: Lawmaker wants Bush censured

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March 13, 2006 12:03 IST

In a development that turns the political spotlight on the White House, a leading Democratic lawmaker has asked the Senate to censure President George Bush for his role in the controversial domestic wiretap programme.

Senator Russel Feingold, the three-term lawmaker from Wisconsin has said that the Senate should publicly admonish Bush for eavesdropping on Americans without a court order. If the lawmaker's demand is considered, Bush could become the second President in US history to be censured.

"This conduct (wiretapping) is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors," said Feingold, who is seen as a Presidential contender for 2008. Bush, according to the Wisconsin Democrat, had 'openly and almost thumbed his nose at the American people,' with the NSA domestic wiretap programme.

The censure resolution is going to be introduced in the Senate later this week and ABC News reported that Feingold asserted that Bush repeatedly misled the public prior to the public disclosure of the National Security Agency surveillance programme by indicating that his administration was relying on court orders to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the United States.

But the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, currently heading the Republican pack for the 2008 Presidential elections, defended the President and argued that Feingold had it all wrong. "Russ is just wrong, he is flat wrong, he is dead wrong," Frist said. 

Political analysts say that Bush's approval rating may be at an all time lows but this does not mean that the censure motion is going to succeed in the Senate. The censure, which is a public act of disapproval by the Senate has been applied only to President Andrew Jackson with many seeing it as a 'unprecedented and never-repeated tactic.'

Senator Frist strongly critcised the censure attempt calling the move political and one 'sending a terrible signal to enemies of America abroad.' The Republican leader is confident that the censure move will not get traction in the Senate. But Feingold is adamant that his attempt is not political. "We, as a Congress, have to stand up to a President who acts like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were repealed on Sept 11, 2001," he said.

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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