By Jeff Bliss
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said he may subpoena Bush administration documents on its controversial domestic surveillance program.
Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, vowed he'll get details on a secret court's approvals of the program that targets suspected al-Qaeda members in the U.S.
``I don't trust what they're doing,'' Rockefeller said in an interview on ``Political Capital With Al Hunt'' airing this weekend on Bloomberg TV. ``If I can't get the information,'' he said, ``I will not shy away from subpoenaing'' it.
The Justice Department on Jan. 17 publicly reversed its opposition to letting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supervise the eavesdropping yet has declined to say how that oversight works.
Rockefeller said it's ``not acceptable'' if the court doesn't review each instance of the electronic surveillance carried out by the National Security Agency.
``In the end, every single wiretap has to have a warrant,'' he said. ``I can't trust'' what the administration says.
The Justice Department indicated Jan. 24 that it was reluctant to share the rulings.
``The executive branch does not publicly release classified information concerning methods, means and operational details of ongoing, clandestine surveillance activities,'' department lawyers wrote in court papers filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. ``More to the point, the longstanding practice is that FISA Court orders remain classified and not subject to public dissemination,'' they wrote.
Revelations about the program in December 2005 caused a public furor over privacy rights and led to calls that the program be disbanded.
Rockefeller also said he suspects that Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials are trying to provoke a military conflict with Iran.
``I don't know that, but I assume that,'' he said.
The senator said he's skeptical that President George W. Bush's program to kill Iranian operatives in Iraq has uniform support within the administration.
``The president has given the order,'' Rockefeller said. ``I'm not sure that it's even clear within the administration that it's a justified policy.''
`We Will Stop Them'
Bush said today he's given the go-ahead for the military to stop suspected Iranian agents in Iraq from attacking civilians or American troops.
``If somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, we will stop them,'' Bush told reporters after meeting with his top military commanders at the White House.
Bush backed the killings as a way of putting pressure on Iran to stop aiding Iraqi Shiite militias who are taking part in the country's sectarian fighting, according to a story in today's Washington Post. Some administration officials are concerned the program will prompt Iran to retaliate with similar actions against U.S. forces, the paper said.
Rockefeller saved some of his harshest criticism for Cheney, who he said tried to block the committee's efforts to get information on intelligence operations.
``He's doing everything possible to stop that,'' he said.
A spokeswoman for Cheney couldn't be reached immediately for comment.
Rockefeller said he hopes the next administration will be headed by someone who ``can do as good or better a job.''
While declining to make an endorsement, he said he wouldn't discount first-term Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who said Jan. 16 that he's exploring a presidential bid.
``Experience is incredibly important,'' Rockefeller said. ``It also can be overrated.''
What's more important is a president ``who is very bright, somebody who in this town can so easily surround himself with incredibly thoughtful people who are wise,'' he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington atLast Updated: January 26, 2007 16:46 EST .