(Bush says we are exporting Democracy, yet here at home the administration is involved in illegal spying on Americans???) Bush Won't Discuss Report of NSA Spying By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 26 minutes ago President Bush refused to say whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States but leaders of Congress condemned the practice on Friday and promised to look into what the administration has done. "There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said there would be hearings early next year and that they would have "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling. Bush said in an interview that "we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them. "I will make this point," Bush said. "That whatever I do to protect the American people â and I have an obligation to do so â that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people." The president spoke in an interview to be aired Friday evening on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer." Bush played down the importance of the eavesdropping story. "It's not the main story of the day," Bush told Lehrer. "The main story of the day is the Iraqi elections" for parliament which took place on Thursday. Neither Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nor White House press secretary Scott McClellan would confirm or deny the report which said the super-secret NSA had spied on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country. That year, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds â perhaps thousands â of people inside the United States, the Times reported. McClellan said the White House has received no requests for information from lawmakers because of the report. "Congress does have an important oversight role," he said. Before the program began, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations. Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time. "This is Big Brother run amok," declared Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., called it a "shocking revelation" that "ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American." Administration officials reacted to the report by asserting that the president has respected the Constitution while striving to protect the American people. Rice said Bush has "acted lawfully in every step that he has taken." And McClellan said Bush "is going to remain fully committed to upholding our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of the American people. And he has done both." The report surfaced as the administration and its GOP allies on Capitol Hill were fighting to save provisions of the expiring USA Patriot Act that they believe are key tools in the fight against terrorism. An attempt to rescue the approach favored by the White House and Republicans failed on a procedural vote Friday morning. The Times said reporters interviewed nearly a dozen current and former administration officials about the program and granted them anonymity because of the classified nature of the program. Government officials credited the new program with uncovering several terrorist plots, including one by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting al-Qaida by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, the report said. Some NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to confirm that the NSA eavesdrops on Americans or whether he played any role, in his previous job as White House counsel, in providing legal justification for the program. Gonzales said Bush is waging an aggressive fight against terrorism, but one that is "consistent with the Constitution." But he said generally that the government has an intense need for information in the struggle. "Winning the war on terrorism requires winning the war of information We are dealing with a patient, diabolical enemy who wants to harm America," Gonzales said at a news conference at the Justice Department on child prostitution arrests. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group was shocked by the disclosure. Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing its use of a classified database of information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States after a report by NBC News said the database listed activities of anti-war groups that were not a security threat to Pentagon property or personnel. The administration had briefed congressional leaders about the NSA program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues. The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.