U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has defended eavesdropping on Americans without court approval, saying the practice is critical to national security.
Speaking to a conservative policy institute, the Manhattan Institute, in New York, Cheney said the practice is a wartime measure, limited in scope and fully consistent with both the president's legal powers and Americans' civil liberties.
Warrantless wiretaps on e-mails and telephone calls that cross U.S. boundaries was revealed by the New York Times last month. Administration critics describe the policy as an unprecedented expansion of presidential powers and violation of civil liberties. Senators have promised to hold hearings on the legality of the program.
Cheney said Thursday that the policy was approved by Congress, although the leader of the Senate at the time denies this.