WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday that he will testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the Bush administration's domestic spying program, in the face of questions from lawmakers and legal analysts about whether it is lawful.
Gonzales said he reached an agreement with Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to answer questions about the legal basis for the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on telephone conversations between suspected terrorists and people in the United States.
''We believe the legal authorities are there," Gonzales said during a news conference at the Justice Department. ''The president acted consistent with his legal authority in a manner that he thought was necessary and appropriate to protect the country against this new kind of threat."
The attorney general said he will not discuss operational aspects of the program at the hearing, which is expected to occur next month. Specter said Sunday that he had asked Gonzales to testify publicly.
The attorney general was White House counsel when Bush initiated the program, but he refused to say yesterday what role he played in developing the legal case to support it.
Administration officials also have not said how many people have been targeted for eavesdropping.