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Senator Feingold calls for rare presidential censure

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    Senator Feingold calls for rare presidential censure

    Symbolic as Republicans don't care so much about the rights of Americans but are more concerned about protecting team Bush and will vote it down.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A prominent Democratic senator said he plans to introduce Monday a resolution calling for President Bush to be censured for his domestic wiretapping program.

    Sen. Russ Feingold, a potential presidential candidate, told CNN's "American Morning" the surveillance program is illegal and he will fight against the "intimidation campaign" that the Bush administration has launched to defend it.
    Feingold, a member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said a censure would "send a clear signal" that Bush's actions were "wrong."
    The administration, which insists the program is legal, defended what it said is a key way of tracking terrorists and preventing attacks in the United States.
    "This is a critical program for national security," the White House said Monday.
    "This program is about detecting and preventing attacks, and this is the president's responsibility. If al Qaeda is calling into or out of the United States, you bet we're going to want to know about it."

    On Sunday, Feingold told ABC's "This Week" the resolution would not preempt discussions about changing the 1978 law governing a special court set up to approve wiretaps.
    "It's an unusual step," he said. "It's a big step, but what the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered."
    The Wisconsin Democrat's move is expected to be largely symbolic. No Republicans are expected to support the resolution.
    Only one president, Andrew Jackson, has ever been censured.

    Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans suspected of communicating with al Qaeda members overseas -- without obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
    Critics have said the programs infringes upon the civil liberties of U.S. citizens because it doesn't require a warrant.
    "There can be debate about whether the [FISA] law should be changed," Feingold said Sunday. "There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases -- but the idea that the president can just make up a law, in violation of his oath of office, has to be answered."

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told ABC on Sunday that Feingold "is flat wrong, he is dead wrong."
    The Tennessee Republican -- also a potential presidential candidate in 2008 -- added that "attacking our commander in chief ... doesn't make sense."
    "We are right now at an unprecedented war where they really want to take us down," he said. "A censure resolution ... is wrong. It sends a signal around the world." Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Feingold's move "political grandstanding."
    The Bush administration has painted complaints about the program as obstacles to winning the war on terrorism. Feingold lashed out Monday against such arguments.

    "This is the game of intimidation and it's working," he said. "... Even Republican senators have said this is not within the law. But the intimidation campaign of calling people names makes people apparently afraid of saying exactly what the law is and stand up for the Constitution."
    On Tuesday, four Senate Republicans proposed a bill to provide what one called "very rigorous oversight" of the program while also giving it the force of law.
    Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all members of the Intelligence Committee, introduced the bill in an effort to address criticism of the program and reach a compromise.