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CIA Head Slams Wiretapping Disclosure

U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Thursday that disclosure of once-secret projects like President George W. Bush's no-warrant eavesdropping program have undermined their work.

"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing disclosures about a variety of CIA programs that he suggested might have been compromised.

Goss said a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."

The Bush program, which he ordered shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, was brought to light by The New York Times in mid-December and has caused a continuing controversy within the Washington establishment. That first story, and others written since, relied on unidentified sources from within the Bush administration.

Democratic members of the intelligence panel accused the Bush administration Thursday of wanting to have it both ways.

"The president has not only confirmed the existence of the program, he has spoken at length about it repeatedly" while keeping Congress in the dark, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the panel's senior Democrat.

Rockefeller suggested that such "leaks" most likely "came from the executive branch" of the government.

That brought a terse response from FBI Director Robert Mueller, who said, "It's not fair to point a finger as to the responsibility of the leak."

In the weeks since the leak, the president and other senior administration officials have publicly defended the eavesdropping, but the full Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to be briefed on it, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

The sometimes pointed exchanges came as leaders of the nation's intelligence agencies appeared before the panel

to give a rundown on threats facing the world.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss asked the intelligence officials at the witness table "whether or not our position has been compromised" by publicity surrounding the program. John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, and his principal deputy, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, agreed that it had.


Sen. Russell Feingold, a Democrat, retorted that Bush had spoken at length of the program in his State of the Union address, "discussing it in front of the whole world." In fact, Feingold said, Thursday's hearing amounted to Republicans trying to keep attention on the subject to mold it into a political issue.

Feingold and other committee Democrats sought to change the focus to the president's decision to authorize the National Security Agency to ignore a law requiring judicial warrants before eavesdropping on communications to and from people in the United States and terror suspects abroad.

Negroponte, who oversees all intelligence activities, strongly defended the program, calling it crucial for protecting the United States against its most menacing threat.

Saying he had reviewed risks from all around the world, including Iran's effort to gain nuclear weapons, Negroponte said that the United States' No. 1 danger is still al Qaeda, despite the fact that many of its leaders have been captured, killed or are on the run, CBS Radio News correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence and a former NSA director, said it was hard to characterize any damage done to his agency in an open session.

But, he said, "Some people claim that somehow or another our capabilities are immune to this kind of information going out into the public domain."

"And, I can tell you, in a broad sense, that is certainly not true."

After a public session lasting just under four hours, the committee and its witnesses went into a private session.

Public hearings on eavesdropping begin next week, but the Justice Department is refusing to turn over classified documents outlining its legal justification for the program, Martin reports.

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